Ohio Boaters Should Follow These Tips to Stay Safe on the Water

With spring in full swing and the warmer weather upon us, Ohio residents are heading outdoors to enjoy some of their favorite hobbies and activities, boating being one of the most popular. The Ohio boating industry is booming, and the state has countless rivers, lakes, and ponds for boating enthusiasts.

The amount of people who enjoy getting out on the water is no surprise, given the many benefits of boating. While fun, boating also comes with known dangers, primarily due to reckless operators and passengers. Other boating hazards stem from the unpredictability and treachery of Mother Nature.

There are several scenarios boaters may encounter that could require filing a lawsuit. There are many ways someone can be legally responsible for an injury, such as speeding, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or not knowing how to properly drive a boat, and the results can be devastating. 

If you’re injured on a boat, you’ll want to consider contacting an Ohio boat accident lawyer. But planning ahead and being prepared before boating are also important, and you should know what to do in an emergency and following a boating accident. While you can’t prevent or avoid every danger or hazard, following certain safety practices can limit the risks of boating injuries.

Top Boating Safety Tips

As the driver or passenger of a boat, there are steps to ensure you’re as safe as possible when you head out on the water. Having the proper equipment and safety practices in place will protect yourself and others and could even save a life. 

1. Know the Boating Laws and Requirements

Just like there are highway and road laws, there are Ohio boating laws and regulations that must be followed. For example, there are speed limits, minimum operator age, training and supervision restrictions, restricted areas and areas where an anchor cannot be lowered, and passenger requirements when in motion.

Ohio boating laws require operators born on or after January 1, 1982, to pass a boater education course or proficiency exam to drive a boat with more than ten horsepower. Boater education helps keep waterways safe for everyone. It promotes the safe operation of power crafts, and proof that the Ohio Boater Education requirement is met must be kept with you.

2. Check the Weather

Regardless of where you go boating in Ohio and the type of vessel you’re on, check the weather forecast before you hit the water. Certain weather conditions, like high wind speeds, rain, and storms, can create unsafe boating conditions. Ohio isn’t on the coast, but lake effect storms and even remnants of a hurricane can affect boater safety.

Hot weather and heat waves create dangerous conditions, putting boaters at risk of heat stroke and burns. Pack and drink lots of water, put on sunscreen, and wear a hat to keep you cool and protected.

3. Bring Life Jackets for Everyone

In 2022, drowning was the leading cause of boating fatalities in Ohio. Even the best swimmers are at risk of drowning. A top boating safety tip is to have enough life jackets – and the right sizes – for everyone on board.

Children under ten must wear a personal flotation device (PFD) approved by the U.S. Coast Guard when on vessels under 18 feet long. PFDs must also be worn by anyone who rides water skis, surfboards, inflatables, or other devices towed by a boat. Depending on the size of the vessel, you may also need to have a throwable PFD, which can be used when someone falls in the water.

Wearing a life jacket at any age and on any boat is the best way to prevent drowning if someone falls overboard, if a collision occurs with another vessel, and if a boat sinks. These situations can cause those in the water to become disoriented, panicked, or even lose consciousness. 

4. Don’t Operate Under the Influence of Drugs or Alcohol

Like driving a car or other road vehicle, Ohio law states you cannot operate a vessel with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or more and that operators cannot be under the influence of drugs. It’s always safest to avoid alcohol completely when boating, but if you choose to imbibe, don’t get behind the wheel – have a designated “driver.” And remember that the legal drinking age of 21 still applies when boating.

5. Pack Safety and Emergency Supplies

A boating wreck can occur in several ways and cause minor to deadly injuries. To be prepared for possible emergencies, stay safe by keeping these supplies on board:

  • First aid kit
  • Flashlight
  • Whistle or horn
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Oars and a bucket

If you plan to be far from land and other boaters, a flare gun should be added to your boat’s emergency kit. You should also have a radio or cell phone on hand since it’s important to have a way to contact emergency services or a family member if needed. 

6. Share Your Float Plan

Every time you go boating in Ohio, let someone know where you’re going by giving them your float plan. Sharing your itinerary, regardless of the type of vessel you’re on, ensures that if something happens, someone knows where you are headed and for how long. This is especially important if you cannot notify emergency services or someone else that something has happened and you need help.

If you’re involved in a boating accident, the person you gave your float plan to can contact emergency personnel on your behalf. They can share key details, like your planned route, the time you left, who’s with you, and when you were expected to return, which can help in a search and rescue operation.

7. Pack Extras

Packing extra essentials, including food, water, and clothing, is a simple but important boating safety tip. The weather can change quickly, and falls overboard are not uncommon. Staying dry, especially at night, is important, particularly if you’re involved in a boating accident and are waiting for help. It’s also smart to pack extra water and food. Staying hydrated and keeping your energy up can help lower the risks of injury when out on the water.

8. Maintain Your Vessel

Like cars, motorcycles, and trucks, power boats require oil, gas, and coolant to run correctly. Engine maintenance is crucial to staying safe and includes checking things over thoroughly, like how much gas you have and whether your fluids are topped off.

You need to regularly assess your boat for damage, check that your lights are working, and much more. This detailed boat maintenance checklist goes through more steps to take to ensure the safest boating experience.

9. Remain Alert

Another boating safety tip is for operators to remain alert at all times. It’s easy to get caught up in the fun of the open water, especially when friends are on board, but staying vigilant when operating can prevent a boat accident. Always know where other vessels are around you, keep an eye on the weather, follow Ohio boating laws, and stay off your cell phone while the engine is engaged. After all, distracted driving also happens on the water and causes boating injuries and fatalities.

10. Educate Passengers on Safety

Anyone who goes on a boat should know basic boater safety. As the owner and operator of a vessel, educate friends and family who join you on the water. Understanding the many dangers that can be encountered could save their lives.

Show passengers where the first aid kit, paddles, bucket, and life jackets are, review relevant boating laws and regulations, and discuss what to do in different emergencies before leaving the dock. Boating is fun when boat safety is a priority for everyone who operates or even boards a vessel.

Dangers of Boating in Ohio

The many dangers of reckless boating in Ohio should be taken seriously. The most common causes of boat wrecks include speeding, driver inattention, boating under the influence of drugs or alcohol, driver inexperience, and poor boat maintenance.

Many injuries can occur on a boat, from cuts and broken bones to traumatic brain injuries, organ damage, and spinal cord injuries leading to lifelong pain and struggles that drastically change people’s lives. Know that it can take time to recognize the severity of an injury; a slip and fall on the deck of a boat may seem minor, but a back injury can require months (or more) of physiotherapy and other treatments to help with recovery.

Whether you’re the operator or passenger of a boat, there are clear hazards that can be encountered when on the water. If you’re injured on a boat, it’s essential to consult with an attorney. At Murray & Murray, our Ohio boating injury and maritime lawyers have extensive experience handling these complex cases.

Proving liability in boat wrecks can be more difficult than other personal injury cases because of specific factors that can contribute to what happens on the water. Our skilled team protects boating injury victims and fights for their rights, ensuring they’re fairly compensated for their suffering and losses. Contact Murray & Murray online or call 419-624-3000 for a free consultation.