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Cruise into boating season safely for National Safe Boating Week

National Safe Boating Week, occurring from May 21-27, serves as a crucial reminder to enhance boating safety skills in anticipation of the boating season. With warmer weather arriving, there’s an increased interest in recreational activities on Alabama’s picturesque lakes, where boating is a favored pastime. The rise in lake visitors underscores the importance of prioritizing safety.

Ensuring the availability of life jackets on your boat is a fundamental step towards safeguarding all passengers, a practice mandated by law across all 50 states. In Alabama, boats are required to carry properly sized, wearable personal flotation devices (PFDs) for each individual onboard or being towed. Furthermore, children under the age of 8 must wear a Coast Guard-approved PFD at all times while on any vessel.

The U.S. Coast Guard‘s 2022 Boating Safety Statistic Report highlights that drowning was the cause of 70% of recreational boating deaths, with 85% of those victims not wearing life jackets. It’s essential to recognize that life jackets come in various types and sizes, including five levels of life jackets and throwable flotation devices. Selecting the appropriate type based on your activities or boating conditions is crucial.

Ensuring the availability of life jackets on your boat is crucial to safeguarding all passengers. (contributed)

Beyond life jackets, there are several other measures to ensure a safe boating experience, as recommended by the National Safe Boating Council:

  • Enroll in a boating safety course to acquire valuable knowledge and hands-on experience, suitable for both novice and experienced boaters.
  • Conduct a thorough equipment check. Arrange a complimentary vessel safety check with the local U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary or U.S. Power Squadrons to confirm the presence, functionality and condition of essential equipment.
  • Create a float plan. Inform someone onshore about your trip’s details, including operator and passenger identities, boat type and registration, and onboard communication equipment.
  • Wear life jackets consistently. A life jacket stored away is ineffective during an emergency.
  • Use an engine cut-off device, as required by law. This safety device can stop the boat’s engine if the operator falls overboard.
  • Be vigilant about the weather. Check the forecast before setting out and keep updated throughout your trip.
  • Maintain awareness of your surroundings. Operator inattention or improper lookout was a factor in nearly a quarter of all reported boating accidents in 2019.
  • Know your route and maintain safe speeds. Familiarize yourself with the area, adhere to local boating speed zones and always navigate at a safe speed.
  • Avoid boating under the influence. One-third of all recreational boating fatalities involve BUI. Designate a sober skipper.
  • Stay connected. Ensure you have multiple communication devices that function when wet, such as VHF radios, emergency locator beacons, satellite phones and cellphones, for use in emergencies.

By adhering to these guidelines, boaters can enjoy Alabama’s lakes safely and responsibly during the boating season and beyond.

For details about Alabama Power lakes, visit or download the Shorelines app on your mobile device.