Is there anything better than spending a summer day on the water or cruising the great outdoors? With nearly 12 million recreational vessels and 1.2 million ATVs in the U.S., Americans clearly enjoy summertime recreation. Joyful times can quickly turn deadly, however, if you’re not vigilant about safety – at all times. In 2021, the U.S. Coast Guard reported 4,439 boating incidents that resulted in 658 deaths, 2,641 injuries, and about $67.5 million in property damage. And the Consumer Product and Safety Commission says there were at least 15,744 ATV-related fatalities between 1982 and 2018. Whether you’re racing across the water or off-roading with your ATV, you should know how to keep caution and safety top of mind.
Tips to Stay Safe in Summer Months
Whether operating a personal watercraft or being towed behind, make the most of the season with these common-sense safety tips.
- Inspect your vessels – The Coast Guard offers Vessel Safety Checks for free! Download the boating safety mobile app to request a vessel check and more. ATVs are not one size fits all. Choose one that’s right for your height, skill level, and capabilities and then have it inspected before venturing out. An inspection can minimize the chance of being injured or stranded. Download the ATV Safety Institute’s pre-ride inspection checklist.
- Take a course – When you consider that operator inexperience is one of the top five reasons for boat crashes, it makes sense to get educated and be prepared. The U.S. Coast Guard has compiled a list of courses. Aside from taking a safety course, at the very least, learn how long it takes to stop with a jet ski as it takes longer for a personal watercraft to come to a complete stop. The ATV Safety Institute also has a list of rider courses.
- Wear the right gear – The U.S. Coast Guard estimates that life jackets could save the lives of over 80 percent of boating fatality victims, making it the simplest life-saving strategy for recreational boating. With jet skis, you’re required to wear your life jacket, while boating merely requires you to have one for every adult aboard the vessel. A life jacket for canoeing is not sufficient for jet skiing, so have the appropriate life jackets for the activity you’re planning. Concussions and head trauma are common injuries involving jet skis. Your life jacket will keep you afloat in the event of an accident.Similarly with ATVs, you should always wear goggles, long sleeves and pants, over-the-ankle boots, gloves, and a DOT-compliant helmet.
- Know the rules – Always follow proper boating etiquette and only go out during fair weather conditions and avoid excursions in low-light or after dark. Pass a detailed float plan along to someone you know with a plan to alert authorities if something goes wrong. With jet skis, avoid sharp turns near another vessel, jumping, following a boat too closely, or chasing other watercraft, as these maneuvers are illegal in almost every jurisdiction in the U.S. Choppy, high-use water can mask downed skiers, swimmers, and small boats so be on the lookout. Keep the safety lanyard close (hooked to your life jacket or around your wrist) and use the ignition switch that cuts power to the engine if you fall off. ATVs are classified as off-highway vehicles; avoid driving on paved roads except to cross. And plan to only drive during daylight on designated trails, and at safe speeds.
- Avoid alcohol – You booze, you lose. The Safe Boating Council reports alcohol is the leading factor in fatal boating accidents. It’s best to avoid it for all outdoor activities involving a recreational vessel. And driving distracted can be just as fatal. Avoid eating, drinking, adjusting the radio, attending to a text, or doing anything that might take your eyes off the road.
Contact Us If You’ve Been Injured from a Recreational Vessel
With high speeds, longer stop times and no protective frame, boats, jet skis and ATVs can be dangerous, especially for inexperienced operators. If you were involved in an accident involving any one of these recreational vessels, or wish to discuss the specifics of your case (including who may be liable in the event of an accident) in a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer, please contact us today.