Safety First: Staying safe on the water during boating season

Warmer weather is here and that means lake days and hanging out on the water for many, but do you know how to stay safe this summer?
Published: May. 10, 2023 at 12:44 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - It‘s that time of year when so many of us are planning a day on the lake or the beach. But being safe on the water is so much more than knowing how to swim.

Several agencies patrol area lakes to enforce lawful and careful behavior to keep everyone safe, especially on boats.

First responders say alcohol and inexperience are common factors for several of the accidents, injuries, and lost people that they encounter.

Here are key tips to ensure safe fun on the water:

  • Don’t drink and drive
  • Wear a life vest
  • Make sure the boat is adequately equipped
    • First aid kits, fire extinguishers, flares, enough life vests for everyone on board, a working horn
  • Keep a fully charged phone in case you need to communicate with loved ones or emergency personnel
  • Have a plan: tell loved ones where you’re going, and for how long. They should also know where you will park your car; these steps help officials if they’re searching for you
  • Have a spotter if anyone on board is doing water sports
  • If you have to call 911, stay on the line
    • Be aware of landmarks to help first responders locate you

Officers are also noticing fewer trained drivers behind the wheel, with so many people obtaining vessels with boat rental apps that don’t require training.

Charlotte Fire recommends you take a boating safety course, know the boat’s capacity, and stay aware of the weather. Children on board must wear a life vest while the boat is moving. Emergency workers also recommend adults wear them because they see what can happen even to the most experienced swimmers.

“Either the water is too cold, they get shocked when they hit the water and lose their function, or they’re too far out, or if someone hits them,” said Charlotte firefighter Andrew Gonzalez. “If someone is intoxicated and hits me, and I get knocked out, I’m done. If I had my vest on it would keep me afloat, I would have a better chance.”

Agencies will be out in force during the busy boater season doing boat checks, making sure drivers are sober and boats are equipped, to make sure everyone can return home safely when the fun is over.