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Boats out on the water in Boston Harbor.

U.S. Coast Guard boating statistics estimate 80% of all reported fatalities occur on boats where the operator has not received safety training. As Memorial Day approaches and crowds flock to the water, May 17-23 has been designated National Safe Boating Week. You can help promote secure practices by sharing these tips for a safe boating season.

1.       Wear a Lifejacket

Last year, the number one cause of boating fatalities in Massachusetts was drowning. None of the victims involved were wearing a lifejacket. Be sure to equip your boat with jackets in appropriate sizes and types for the intended wearers – even pets!

Massachusetts law stipulates that year-round, anyone younger than 12 years old must wear a life jacket while onboard a boat, as must all water skiers and personal watercraft users.  Each vessel’s owner or operator is responsible for making sure that life preservers are available for each passenger and, if required, worn by their passengers.

2.       Stay Alert

Travel at reasonable speeds and abide by state boating laws. Always avoid operating boats under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

3.       Take a Safety Course

The Massachusetts Environmental Police (MEP) offer a state and nationally approved safe boating course. Young boaters between 12-15 years old are required to take the course for a boating safety certificate to operate a motorboat without supervision. Teens between 16-17 years old who wish to operate a personal watercraft (PWC) must also receive a boating safety certificate via the course.

While adult boaters are not required to obtain a certificate, the course is recommended as a safety refresher. Classes are free and run 10-12 hours in length.

4.       Check the Weather

Be aware of conditions on the water when planning a day outdoors. Know the tides, currents, sandbars, and other features of the area in which you will be boating. Understand that boating conditions can change quickly, and know your limits.

5.       Practice Clean Boating

Oil leaks, fuel spills, boat sewage, and detergents all run the risk of polluting water and shore areas. Reduce the effects of boating on the environment by disposing of materials safely at boat pumpout facilities. For more tips, take a look at the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management’s simple steps to clean boating.

Secure practices are easy to adopt and keep boaters safe on both land and water. Share these tips with others to spread awareness of National Safe Boating Week. Enjoy the summer season by celebrating on the water and boating responsibly!

What are your boating safety tips for others? Share in the comments below, or by tweeting us @MassGov.

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