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Our View: Keep yourself, others safe on the water

Published: Thursday, May 22, 2014 8:52 p.m. CST • Updated: Thursday, May 22, 2014 8:58 p.m. CST

Boating season is upon us, and many people soon will be out on local waterways having a good time in and around their boats.

It’s important that those who will be out in boats this spring and summer operate their watercraft safely to protect themselves, their guests and those using the water around them.

With that in mind, here are some safety tips for the boating season:

• Never use drugs and avoid using alcohol before or during boat operation. Alcohol’s effects are greatly exaggerated by exposure to sun, glare, wind, noise and vibration. Those who drink shouldn’t be behind the wheel of a vehicle on land or water. And those who do should expect to pay a price for putting personal fun ahead of the safety of others.

• Have a life jacket for every passenger. Boats 16 feet and longer must have at least one throwable device as well. Life jackets should be tested for wear and buoyancy at least once each year. Now is the perfect time to test. Waterlogged, faded or leaky jackets should be thrown out.

• Have a fire extinguisher on board.

• Make sure your boat lights are operable before leaving the dock.

• Bring on board extra batteries, a cellphone, maps, flares and a first aid kit. Store these items in a floatable pouch.

• Before starting the boat, open all the hatches and run the blower. Sniff for fumes before starting the engine. If you smell fumes, do not start the engine.

• Don’t overload the boat with gear or passengers. It will make the boat unstable and increase the risk of capsizing or swamping.

• Never allow passengers to ride on gunwales or seatbacks or outside of protective railings, including the front of a pontoon boat. A sudden turn, stop or start could cause a fall overboard.

• Keep an eye on the weather and bring a radio. If bad weather is approaching, get off the water early and avoid a waiting line in inclement weather.

Enjoy the boating season, but do so safely.

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