Boating Safety Requirements and Tips
Operator inexperience, inattention, recklessness, and speeding are the four leading causes of these tragic accidents.
Take a few minutes now to learn how you can boat safely:
Leave Alcohol Onshore
- Never use drugs or alcohol before or during boat operation. Alcohol's effects are greatly exaggerated by exposure to sun, glare, wind, noise, and vibration.
- Boating Under the Influence is dangerous.
- Boating Under the Influence - U.S. Coast Guard web site with extensive information on this topic.
- Learn why it's best to leave your drinking until you're done boating.
- Use and Maintain the Right Safety Equipment.
Learn about some key equipment to keep you safe:
- Life Jackets and Personal Flotation Devices - State law’s requires each person on board to have a properly-fitting U.S. Coast Guard-approved serviceable life jacket.
- Fire extinguishers - If your boat has any enclosed compartments or a false floor you must carry a Coast Guard approved fire extinguisher. Make sure it is charged and accessible.
- Boat lights - Always test your boat lights before the boat leaves the dock and carry extra batteries.
- Emergency supplies - Keep on board in a floating pouch: maps, flares, a first aid kit.
- Anchor - Make sure you have one and can properly use it. Improper anchoring may cause fatal accidents.
Be Weather Wise
- Learn how to avoid weather-related problems that can swamp your outing.
- Regardless of the season, keep a close eye on the weather and bring a radio. Sudden wind shifts, lightning flashes and choppy water all can mean a storm is brewing.
- If bad weather is approaching, get off the water early to avoid a long waiting line in inclement weather.
- Hypothermia - Cold water temperatures, particularly in spring and fall, increase the risk of hypothermia.
Take These Steps Before Getting Underway
- Tell someone where you are going and when you will return.
- Open all hatches and run the blower after you refuel and before getting underway. Sniff for fumes before starting the engine and if you smell fumes, do not start the engine.
- Check the boat landing for any local regulations that apply. If boating on the Great Lakes or Mississippi River, review the federal regulations for additional requirements.
- Make certain your registration is up to date and on board with you and that your boat displays the current year sticker
Loading and Unloading Your Boat
- Do not overload your boat. Abide by the listed weight capacity.
Practice good boat launch etiquette
- Remove covers and straps before you get in line to launch and load equipment into your boat before you reach the ramp. Make sure all equipment is working and that the plug is in.
- When you're in line to launch, have someone hold the bow line and assist in boat handling at the pier.
- Have one person drive the boat off the trailer and out of the way of other boaters while you or someone else parks the tow vehicle; likewise, upon returning, drop one person off at pier to get the vehicle and get in line.
Follow Navigation and Other Rules on the Water
- Wear your life jacket and have everybody on board wear theirs. Year-in, and year-out, the vast majority of boaters who died on Wisconsin waters drowned and were not wearing life jackets that could have kept them afloat. In 2008, 16 of the 20 people killed in boating accidents were not wearing life jackets.
- Never allow passengers to ride on gunwales or seat backs or outside of protective railings, including the front of a pontoon boat. A sudden turn, stop or start could cause a fall overboard.
- After leaving the boat launch, maintain slow-no-wake speed for a safe and legal distance from the launch.
Follow boat traffic rules, including these key ones:
- If a boat is approaching your vessel from your starboard (right) side in a crossing situation, the boat on the right is the privileged boat and has the right-of-way. The boat on the left shall slow and/or change course to cross behind the privileged boat to avoid collision.
- When a motorboat and a boat propelled entirely by sail or muscle power are proceeding in such a direction as to involve risk of collision, the motorboat shall yield the right-of-way.
- Keep the proper navigation lights from sunset to sunrise and slow down.