Josh Boyd, Edmonson Voice Contributor, column and photo:
As the latter half of July carries on and August grows near, summer time anglers continue to frequent the waterways of south central Kentucky despite the sweltering heat. All the while, the thought of fall's magnificent fishing opportunities and mild weather patterns linger in the not-so-distant future. As summer edges ever closer to it's eminent merger with fall, boating traffic on many waterways has the potential to reach peak yearly numbers.
What many boaters fail to recognize is how quickly accidents can, and do happen on waterways across our nation every year. According to the last released U.S Coast Guard Recreational Boating Statistics Report, published in regards to the 2017 boating season, there were 658 fatalities on American waterways recorded within the yearly surveyed period. Even more staggering, is the fact that in a large number of the reported incidents, the primary contributing circumstances were of an avoidable nature--had proper means of boating safety been utilized. By avoiding the following commonly overlooked aspects of boating safety, one can do their part to protect against potential tragedy on the water.
Failure To Wear Life Jackets
Many excuses are given by boaters each year in regards to why they do not regularly wear life jackets during the duration of their outings on the water. Being cumbersome, lacking adequate ventilation to prevent excess heat, and the perceived lack of necessity are all commonly given reasons for not using life jackets. However, accidents often happen without a moment's notice and a life jacket will be of no use to a boat's occupants if they are not worn. The ideology that you will have the opportunity to dawn a life jacket as a boating accident is unfolding, is likely as far fetched as the notion that an individual will have time to secure a seatbelt once an automobile collision is already in progress.
The Use Of Improperly Fitted Life Jackets
Just as the use of a life jacket to protect yourself against unforeseen boating accidents is of utmost importance, properly fitting life jackets to the age and size of all of a boat's occupants is also paramount. When outfitting your vessel with the proper number of life jackets in accordance to Coast Guard law, the jackets should not be of one generic size unless all occupants are of a similar build and can be properly secured within the flotation devices. If not properly fitted, an individual can slide out of the security of their personal flotation device upon being submerged in the water.
Not Being Aware Of Underwater Obstructions
An operator of any vessel should be aware of the draft, or depth that the boat sets in the water, for their personal craft. This knowledge should be retained and utilized when navigating waterways. Shallow water flats, submerged trees, or flooded man made structures can all be of a hazardous nature to a boat that inadvertently runs upon their location. Shallow creeks and rivers of varying depths can both be especially dangerous to navigate for boaters who are not aware of the waterway's obstacles.
Thinking It Can't Happen To You
Although an individual never journeys out on the water assuming that they are going to be involved in an accident, one is wise to recognize that the possibility always exists. Of the 658 fatalities on U.S. waterways in 2017, it is fair to say that none of those individuals anticipated the tragedy that was to take place. A lack of awareness in regards to potential boating dangers can easily lead to complacency in the area of safety.
Many activities in life involve certain inherent risks, with boating being no exception. However, with proper forethought and planning, these risks can be minimized. As you set out to experience the vast joys that a day on the water brings forth, stay diligent in your application of boating safety in all that you do. Memories will be made, enjoyment will be had, and you can take satisfaction in knowing that you have done your part to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.