To many people, summer means one thing, time at the lake! Unfortunately, lake accidents are all too common and can often be deadly. Children’s Health states that 80% of people who drown in boating accidents weren’t wearing life jackets. Not surprisingly, most boating accidents occur while the operator is impaired. Children’s Health provides some precautions you should take to keep you and your loved ones safe at the lake this summer.
- Enroll in a Boater Safety Course.Minnesota law provides that children under 13 may never operate a watercraft, even with an adult on board. Children 13 years old may operate a watercraft with someone at least 21 years old on board or with a watercraft operator’s permit so long as they are in continual visual observation by someone at least 21 years old. Children 14-17 years old must have either a watercraft operator’s permit or have someone on board who is at least 21 years old.
- When boating or on a personal watercraft, wear a Coast Guard approved Personal Flotation Device (PFD, life jacket) at all times. A properly fitted PFD is snug, yet comfortable, and will not slip above the chin or ears when lifted at the shoulders. And remember that kids mimic their parents, so set a good example and so show them that safety is important to you.
- Stay away from alcohol while boating. Not only is operating a boat while under the influence illegal, alcohol also impairs your ability to navigate, to identify obstacles in the water and to supervise your young passengers to ensure they are safe.
- Remember, active supervision is the best protection.Assign an adult “Water Watcher” to supervise the kids in or around the water at all times, and make sure that person is totally focused on watching the water, not socializing, texting, fishing, drinking, reading, etc.
- Only swim in designated swimming areas.If you let your children swim in the open water, it may be difficult for other boaters to see them. Also,make sure that you and your children don’t dive into the lake, because it’s usually too dark to see just how far down the bottom really is.
- Throw, don’t go.If you see someone struggling in the water, instead of swimming out to help them, find a flotation device to throw to them or extend a pole or a tree branch that they can grab. Never jump in to save someone, because you could be pulled under, too.