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Be safe on the boat

June 29, 2008|By BILL ANDERSON

The July 4 holiday weekend is nearly here, and it is always one of the biggest boating weekends of the summer. The high price of gas this season has boat traffic down in most areas, but many folks will probably still be willing to suck it up and fill up the tank for a few hours of boating over the holiday weekend.

Boating remains high on the list of outdoors activities. In this area, the most popular boat types range from jet skis to the big pleasure boats designed for water skiing and cruising. In between, there are many models of fishing boats.

Boating is so popular that on the most popular waters -- such as the Potomac River and Deep Creek Lake -- traffic has reached a level to where it can get dangerous out there. As a result, state and federal agencies are issuing warnings about the dangers associated with boating, and making recommendations on how boaters can help reduce accidents.

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According to statistics, the biggest contributing factor in accidents is the use of alcohol while operating a boat. More than 50 percent of the accidents that resulted in death can be linked to alcohol use.

Another of the most basic safety recommendations to boaters is that they use personal floatation devices (PFDs) or life jackets. Wearing PFDs is often overlooked in the hot days of summer because most of us find them hot and uncomfortable to wear. However, it is well documented that they do save lives.

The following are some other safety recommendations, compiled from several sources for those who will be on the water next weekend:

Never overload your boat. This is a very common cause of boating accidents. Know your boat's load limit, and don't exceed it.

A safe boat is a well-equipped boat. Always carry the necessary safety gear, and know how to use all of the safety-related accessories.

Keep lifejackets visible and accessible. Always insist that kids wear PFDs at all times.

Moderation and common sense should dictate how much alcohol is consumed on your boat. The recommended approach is a designated driver who does not drink until after the boat is docked.

As boat traffic continues to increase, this makes good sense and helps protect everyone.

Bill Anderson writes a weekly outdoors column for The Herald-Mail.

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