Taking your kids boating can be a lot of fun, but you also need to be mindful about the risks.
Each year, there are thousands of boating accidents across the US. Often, the accidents themselves and the resulting injuries and deaths are preventable. In this kids' guide to boating safety, we'll point out five tips for keeping kids safe while they're on boats.
1) Personal flotation devices (Life vests)
Regardless of whether or not your kids know how to swim, high-quality, well-fitted life vests appropriate for their weight and age are essential (and the same is true for adults). According to the CDC, 88% of people who died in boating accidents during 2010 weren't wearing life vests.
One way to check if the vest fits well is to have kids lift their arms up straight, fingers pointing towards the sky; if the vest rises up to meet their ears or chin, you might need to either tighten the straps or get another vest. The life vests you use should be approved by the US Coast Guard.
For small children, including babies, there are high-standard personal flotation devices that have extra safety features, including a grab handle for adults to easily fish them out of the water and extra padded support around the head to help keep the child's head out of the water.
As soon as they're old enough to understand, start educating your kids about the water. In addition to teaching them how to swim, teach them the differences between various bodies of water (e.g. a swimming pool vs. river vs. the ocean) and what the appropriate types of behavior are in each place. Depending on their age, you can even enroll them in classes for boat or water safety and for operating different watercraft.
Make sure that you yourself are educated about these things as well; be a role model for your kids by behaving safely. Taking a CPR and basic first aid course is also important, so don't hesitate to sign up for one.
3) Boating rules
You should make strict rules for conduct on a boat, such as not leaning over the side, not sticking arms and legs out over the edge, and not running around. You also want to childproof your boat, making sure there's nothing hazardous on it that children can have access to.
4) Keeping an eye on your kids
It can take only a moment for a child to go over the edge of a boat. You need to remain constantly vigilant about where your children are and what they're doing on the boat.
5) Be wary of reckless behavior from adults
Many boating accidents result from the recklessness of adult boat operators. They may speed, drink, disregard obstacles on the water, not maintain their vessels properly, and not supply adequate safety equipment on the vessel.
Be sure you can trust the people who are operating the boat you're on. And if it's your teenager who's learning how to use a boat, make sure they're well-supervised and following all laws related to boat operation in your jurisdiction.
In the aftermath of a boating accident, don't hesitate to contact us. We can help you fight for compensation to deal with medical bills and with other issues that arise after an accident. But for starters, try to avoid an accident entirely by taking to heart these safety precautions. You can only truly enjoy your time on the water if you and your kids are safe.