Boaters best prepared to survive accidents follow these safety tips

WASHINGTON — Getting out on the water is a fun way to spend a holiday weekend, and boaters who follow a few easy safety measures can help assure everyone gets safely back to shore.

“I’m asking all boat operators to make safety their No. 1 priority while out on the water this summer,” said Lt. Kevin Ayd of the Maryland Transportation Authority Police at a May news conference. “One death on Maryland waterways is one too many.”

Here are a few recommendations from safety experts:

  • File a float plan. Let someone know where you’re going and expect to return.
  • Stock a noise maker. An air horn or whistle can help alert potential rescuers.
  • Have a VHF radio. A call on VHF radio Channel 16 goes to anyone who is listening.
  • Watch the weather.
  • Take a boating safety class.
  • Make sure everyone has a life jacket and that they wear it all the time.

Accidents can happen faster than it takes to put on a life jacket. The U.S. Coast Guard estimates life jackets could have saved more than 80 percent of boaters who die on the water.

Kayaker Sean Danielson of Shady Side, Maryland, can attest to the lifesaving power of wearing a life jacket. One helped keep him afloat after his watercraft overturned in the Chesapeake Bay on April 18 and he was stranded for hours in hypothermia-inducing, 47-degree water before eventually being rescued.

“Sean is living proof that what we say can work,” Col. Ken Ziegler Jr., of the Maryland Natural Resources Police, said in May. “Wearing your personal flotation device is one of the most important things you can do.”

A campaign from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers puts it like this: “Life Jackets Worn … Nobody Mourns.”

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Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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