Boater Safety

Safety First
Nothing beats boating as a way to relax, have fun, enjoy the outdoors, and bring friends and family together. That's why it is so tragic when a recreational boating outing - hunting, angling, paddling, or just cruising - ends with an accident. On average, two boaters are killed every day on America's waterways, more than 700 per year. Thousands of others are injured.

Waterways are second only to highways as the scene of accidental deaths. Too often these accidents happen when otherwise responsible, conscientious people make the serious mistake of assuming that their experience or equipment is enough to keep them and their passengers safe. As a boat owner and operator, you are responsible for your safety, the safety of your passengers, and other boaters.

Safety Guidelines
Help keep Washington's waterways safe by following these safety guidelines:
  • Always wear a life jacket when boating. Besides their lifesaving flotation, life vests and float coats provide added insulation to protect against hypothermia, and they only work if boaters wear them. Life vests featuring mesh upper bodies, specifically designed for shouldering a gun, are available now.
  • Be aware of tides. Becoming stuck or stranded in a mud flat can be a serious safety hazard.
  • Be weather wise. Sudden wind shifts, lightning flashes, and choppy water all can mean a storm is brewing.
  • Bring your cell phone in a waterproof zip lock bag. If you have cell phone service, you can call for help without removing the phone from the bag.
  • Don't drink and boat: Alcohol affects both judgment and reactions, and its effects are more pronounced on the water. Tougher laws for boaters operating a Boating Under the Influence (BUI) go into effect on July 28, 2013. Read the BUI fact sheet for details.
  • Dress for the water temperature, not the air temperature. Assess the wind and wave conditions to decide if you are prepared for potential cold-water conditions. Check weather forecasts before leaving home and be aware of changing conditions. Take along extra clothing for children, they get cold faster than adults.
  • In case of capsizing or swamping, you should stay with your boat. Even when filled with water, the boat will provide some flotation and is easier to see by potential rescuers.
  • Limit movement and keep weight low to avoid capsizing or falling overboard. Take two trips if necessary to keep the weight in the boat low.
  • Limit the loads of people and equipment carried in boats. Overloaded boats are less maneuverable and more likely to become swamped or capsized.
  • Take a boating safety course and receive your boating safety education card. The Mandatory Boater Safety Education Law went into effect on January 1, 2008. The new law requires boaters ages 12 years and older to pass a boating safety course or an equivalency exam before operating a motorboat of 15 horsepower or greater.
Do a walk-around of your boat at the beginning of the season to be sure all bolts are bolted, all wires are intact, and no trouble spots have developed over the winter. Trade in your old flares for a discount on new ones, ask at your boating supply store. Ask your local boating safety patrol about local boating rules. Allow your blowers to run for at least four minutes after fueling before you turn on the engine.