According to the U.S. Coast Guard, education is the key to preventing boating accidents. Last year, 80 percent of all boating fatalities occurred on boats where the operator had not completed a boating safety course.
Although collision with another boat is the most reported type of accident - hurricanes, theft and fire also pose a significant threat to boat owners. In fact, over 40 million dollars worth of boats are stolen each year, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
To be a safer boater, the U.S. Coast Guard suggests that you:
-Get a free vessel safety check by calling 1-800-368-5647 or visiting http://www.vesselsafetycheck.org.
-Monitor the weather forecast and let someone know where you're going and when to expect you.
-Check engine, fuel, electrical and steering systems, especially for exhaust-system leaks.
-Keep marine-type fire extinguishers accessible and in condition for immediate use. Make sure they are matched to the size and type of the boat.
-Equip the vessel with required navigation lights and with a whistle, horn or bell. Consider additional safety devices, such as a paddle or oars, a first-aid kit, a supply of fresh water, a tool kit and spare parts, a flashlight, flares and a radio.
-Make sure that every person on board the boat wears a life jacket and don't permit riding on the bow, seatbacks or gunwales. Every year, 80 percent boater fatalities are attributed to a missing life jacket.
-Never boat under the influence. In 2001, alcohol was involved in more than one third of all boating fatalities.
Boaters can get more information about insurance coverage by accessing I.I.I.'s Web site at http://www.iii.org or calling their insurance professional. Information on how to protect a boat from theft can be found at the National Insurance Crime Bureau's Web site at http://www.nicb.org.