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Boating Safety

As the heart of summer approaches it's time to dust off those life vests and take the boat out. This time of year, watercraft safety is one of the most important topics of discussion. Before taking the boat out, there are several things that you need to keep in mind.

A 2007 law passed by the Virginia General Assembly requires all boat operators to complete a boating safety education course. Beginning July 1, 2015, all personal water craft (PWC) operators age 14 and older and motorboat operators ages 50 and younger need to take a boating safety course. No person under the age of 14 may operate a PWC.

Now that you know the basics about requirements for operating a PWC, here are some safety tips to keep in mind this summer.

  • Be Weather-Wise – Always check local weather conditions before going out on the water. TV, radio and online forecasts can be useful sources of information. Darkening clouds, sudden drops in temperature and increasing wind speeds are signs of a storm and good indicators of when it's time to get off the water.
  • Follow a Pre-Departure Checklist – Boating safety means you should be ready for any possibility on the water. Having a checklist is the best way to ensure you didn't overlook anything before hitting the water.
  • Develop a Float Plan – Whether you choose to inform a family member or staff at your local marina, always be sure to let someone else know your float plan. This should include where you're going and how long you will be gone.
  • Make Proper Use of life jackets – life jackets are not only a necessity on any boating endeavor, but they are also required by law. Make sure every member of your boating party is fit for their own personal life jacket prior to going out in the boat.
  • Avoid Alcohol – Save the drinks for later. The probability of being involved in a boating accident doubles when alcohol is involved and studies have shown that the effects of alcohol are increased by sun and wind exposure. Not to mention that boating under the influence of alcohol is illegal and getting caught would result in a DUI.
  • Learn to Swim – If you're going to be in and around the water, one of the most important boating safety tips is knowing how to swim in the event of an emergency. The American Red Cross and other local organizations offer swimming classes for all ages and abilities.

Information provided by Josh McDearmon, Intern from JMU, working with Community Outreach.