(WFXR) — Virginia is home to 250,000 registered motorboats, including 30,000 personal watercrafts like jet skis. Thousands of other people operate their boats in the state every year.
According to the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (VDWR), there have been more than 700 recreational boating accidents in the commonwealth in the last five years. Those accidents have resulted in nearly 100 deaths, emphasizing the need for boaters to understand and embrace safe boating operations and practices.
That’s why anyone who operates a vessel with a motor of 10 horsepower of greater is required to take and pass a boater safety course.
State officials say since the requirement has been put into place, there has been a drop in the number of accidents on the water, as well as in the number of conflicts that arise because of unsafe boating practices. More information on the boating safety course requirements can be found on the VDWR webpage.
Beyond the course, there is a checklist every boater can do to ensure safety on the water.
- Make sure you have personal flotation devices for everyone on board
- Make sure you have throwable flotation devices on board
- Make sure you have fire extinguishers on board
- Make sure all running lights are functioning properly
- Make sure horns or sound producing devices are functioning properly
- Make sure you have flares or other distress signals on board
- Make sure you have a basic tool box that includes a flashlight on board
- Check fuel and engine fluid levels
- Make sure bilges are operating properly
- Make sure batteries are properly charged
- Check the local weather forecast and have a radio on board for weather updates
- Make sure to have a fully-stocked first aid kit on board
- Make sure to have a VHF radio to call for help
While all of these are important, Virginia Conservation Police say wearing personal flotation devices are vital to saving lives. Situations can go from calm to chaos in just a matter of seconds. Having a flotation device on or within easy reach can make the difference between living and dying.
Fire extinguishers are also key to staying safe on the water. Once a fire starts on a boat, the only escape may be into the water, and that can be dangerous. Having something to put out a fire is necessary and can save lives and protect against injury.
If you are driving a boat, or if you’re a passenger, safety experts say to keep your head on a swivel. Always be on the lookout for obstacles or other boaters. If you see another boat, don’t assume the people on that vessel see you, too. Drive your boat defensively, and always err on the side of caution.