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Summer Boating Safety Tips During COVID-19

Are you planning an afternoon on the lake or the Intracoastal Waterway? During these unsettling times, an outdoor adventure complete with nautical breezes and sunshine provides a welcome respite from the worries of the day. Boating safety is always a priority when enjoying an outing on the water, but even more so during COVID-19. Today’s post covers safety basics and additional considerations in light of the pandemic.


Boating Safety Courses and Vessel Safety Checks
The U.S. Coast Guard reports that human error is the number one cause of boating accidents. Their website includes a directory of boating safety courses for all ages and experience levels. There are online courses available, including the South Carolina Boating Safety course through the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. Boaters are also encouraged to take advantage of a vessel safety check, which is offered at no cost thanks to the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and the United States Power Squadrons.


Life Jackets and Equipment
Troubling statistics from the U.S. Coast Guard: “76% of boating deaths in 2017 were due to drowning, and 84% of the victims were not wearing a life jacket.” When ensuring a proper fit of life jackets, the goal is “comfortably snug” (check the label for age and weight ranges). Refer to this helpful infographic from the BoatUS Foundation. As for required equipment, the South Carolina Hunting & Fishing website provides an up-to-date list.


Review the Marine Forecast
Before finalizing plans, check the latest weather forecast. The marine forecast for your area from the National Weather Service details current conditions and hazards and also posts specifics for rivers and lakes. Here’s a look at Charleston’s Marine Weather, as an example. Know that changing plans to avoid possible hazards is always a good idea.

Safety and Surroundings
We covered being aware of your surroundings while boating in a previous post; look up for bridge clearances and power lines, and down for floats, swimmers, debris and divers flags.  Before making a turn, ensure you are clear on all sides and watch out for passing traffic. Be aware of your speed. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) states: “In South Carolina, vessels may not be operated in excess of idle speed within 50 feet of an anchored vessel, wharf, pier, dock, or a person in the water. Vessels may not operate in excess of idle speed within 100 yards of the Atlantic coastline.” Your speed should allow you to take the appropriate steps to avoid an accident. We recommend you keep at least 200 feet between your vessel and another boat and avoid jumping other boats’ wakes.

Don’t Drink and Operate a Boat

Safe Kids Worldwide cautions boaters: “A large portion of boating accidents that occur each year involve alcohol consumption by both boat operators and passengers.” Given the effects of alcohol on the mind and body, we urge boating operators to steer clear of alcoholic beverages.

Maintenance and Recalls

The National Law Review appropriately describes boats as “high maintenance vessels.” Proper maintenance and inspections provide peace of mind and may help reduce unexpected issues on the water. You may think about recalls for your vehicles or household products, but they are also a possibility in the boating space. Search the recall list on the U.S. Coast Guard website.


COVID-19 Considerations
The National Law Review advises that by design, boating isn’t conducive to social distancing. For this reason, they recommend limiting boating excursions to persons who live in the same household. Richard P. Console, Jr. writes, “Failing to do so could risk you or somebody you love contracting the virus, which is not something you want to experience.”


We Are Here to Help
Contact our personal injury firm if you or a family member has been injured in a boating accident in South Carolina. We offer a free consultation and 24-hour answering service. We have five convenient locations, with three South Carolina locations being fully staffed with full-time attorneys and experienced support staff, or we can meet you at your home or hospital, with evening and weekend appointments available. Call John Price Law Firm, LLC at 843-552-6011.


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