Boating in Oregon: 4 Critical Boating Safety Tips

Recreational boating is one of the most beloved pastimes among Oregonians. With so many boaters taking advantage of Oregon’s beautiful rivers and lakes, these boating safety tips are as important as ever. According to the State of Oregon Marine Board, in 2016 there were 19 recreational boating-related fatalities in Oregon alone. That’s three more compared to the previous year. As the numbers fluctuate inconsistently, there doesn’t seem to be any apparent year-to-year trend. However, the same, easy-to-avoid mistakes do have a recurring role to play. Although boating season is just about over, here are a few tips and friendly reminders that will help you stay safe out on the water in 2018.

Critical Boating Safety Tips

1.   Wear a life jacket…Your life may depend on it

You may drive a boat as an occupational responsibility, or you may drive a boat for fun. Whether for work or play, you’ve driven a boat many times before, and it’s been smooth sailing.

But boating accidents happen more often than most people realize. It was reported that 12 victims of the 19 boating-related fatalities in 2016 weren’t wearing a life jacket. While it can’t be stated for certain, a life vest could have helped save their lives.

It’s common for boaters to think of boating as a harmless activity. As such, many choose not to wear a floatation device or even keep one on board. While it may seem like a bulky nuisance, a life jacket can be the difference between life and death.

2.   Don’t operate a boat under the influence

It’s important to remember that operating a boat under the influence puts lives in jeopardy, and it’s no less dangerous than driving a car while intoxicated. Unfortunately, a majority of Oregon boating accidents are associated with boating under the influence (BUI), even though the state of Oregon prohibits operating a boat while under the effects of alcohol, controlled substances, or drugs. Boating under the influence isn’t just a bad idea because it’s against the law, it’s a bad idea because it’s dangerous as it impairs your judgement, vision, and reaction time. Every time you boat under the influence, you put your own life at risk as well as the lives of others. For legal, ethical, and safety purposes, it’s imperative that boat operators abstain from consuming intoxicants before and during any boat-related outing. While there will always be another beer somewhere, you only get one life.

3.   Stay focused and alert

There’s no doubt about it, boating is a recreational activity that allows people to enjoy the magnificent outdoors. While the thrill of driving a boat seems simple and freeing, the attentiveness of the boat operator is crucial. But it’s easy to get distracted, whether you’re lost in your own thoughts, exhausted from lack of sleep, or engrossed in a conversation with family and friends. As the captain, you’re responsible for your own safety as well as the lives and wellbeing of each passenger. For these reasons, staying attentive is more than a necessity—it’s a priority.

Below are some ways to stay focused and alert while driving a boat:

Stay hydrated – Remember to drink plenty of water to reduce the chances of dehydration. Dehydration can lead to physical ailments, including heat exhaustion and headaches that can distract from defensive boat driving.

Eat enough food – Similarly, if you’re hungry, you’re probably not thinking about best boat operating practices. Always keep snacks on board to keep your mind on safety.

Get plenty of rest – Many boating accidents occur at night due to boater fatigue. Like driving a car, operating a boat requires a well-rested and alert individual at the steering wheel. If you’re not well-rested or don’t feel well, it’s best to stay off the water.

Minimize distractions – Keep music and other distractions to a minimum. While it may seem extreme, every precaution matters, especially when boating with a group of people. You have the power to control many possible distractions. For example, you can put your phone out of sight. This way, you won’t feel inclined to respond to every text and notification you receive.

Keep your eyes on the water – As the driver of the boat, you assume a role of responsibility the second your hands grip the steering wheel. While you may feel tempted to proactively engage with other passengers, your primary focus is the water in front of you. This will help you avoid buoys, swimmers, other boats, and so on. Staying attentive is critical, and its importance can’t be overstated.

4.   Recognize safety hazards

There are many possible boating risks that should be thoroughly evaluated before leaving the dock. By being mindful about simple, yet important details, you can prevent dangerous boating accidents that many boaters fail to consider.

Before heading out, make sure you check your local forecast. Sunny and exceptionally hot conditions may call for extra SPF and water, while a prediction of heavy rain may cause you to change the date of your outing to another time.

Once out on the water, do your best to stay vigilant. If you’re looking to explore territories that are unfamiliar to you, it’s your due diligence to take the time to contact local boating authorities. They will be able to answer any questions or concerns you have about navigating the lake, and they’ll be able to point out any hazards. Knowledge is power, and knowledge will help you stay safe on the water.

In sum, while boating may seem like a fun and care-free pastime, there are countless things that can quickly go awry. These boating safety tips help captains take every precaution to keep themselves and their passengers safe. If you’re a victim of a boating accident and are seeking legal representation, contact Oregon boating accident attorney Travis Mayor to assist you with excellent, thorough, and relentless legal counsel.