Missouri State Highway Patrol reminds boaters how to be safe in 2024

The Missouri State Highway Patrol is sharing safe boating tips for the lake-crazy state, in advance of National Safe Boating Week May 18-24.

Every vessel should have U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets, also known as Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs). The quantity needed is determined by the size of your boat and the number of people on board.

Each life jacket needs to be in good condition, the appropriate size for each individual, and easily accessible in case of emergencies. It’s important to avoid storing PFDs in plastic bags or locked compartments, since they may be inaccessible in sudden emergencies.

Putting on a PFD becomes difficult once you are already in the water. Missouri State Highway Patrol Col. Eric T. Olson emphasizes the importance of wearing a PFD at all times, and encourages boaters to make it a priority for everyone on board.

It’s against Missouri law to operate a boat while under the influence. Alcohol, controlled substances or drugs in your system will lead to impaired balance, judgment, coordination, vision and reaction times when operating a vessel. Indeed, one of the main factors in boating accidents and fatalities is alcohol.

Factors such as weather, time and other elements can impact the preparedness of your boat. Boaters are advised to inspect their boats thoroughly before going into the water for the 2024 boating season. Contact your local troop headquarters to ask about equipment inspections by the Highway Patrol.

Personal watercraft, while lots of fun with their remarkable maneuverability, can quickly become difficult to handle. Always maintain a safe distance from other watercraft, and remember to check behind both shoulders before making turns to ensure no other vessels or personal watercraft are nearby.

Avoid fixating on the short distance ahead while boating, and stay aware of all traffic in your area.

Victims can drown rapidly without showing signs of struggle. Missouri reported 28 drownings in 2023. Every situation has its own uniqueness, and many of these incidents can be avoided.

If you happen to be on a dock when someone falls into the water, try to talk to them and assist them in reaching a safe area.

If someone in the water cannot make it to the dock, extend an object such as a fishing rod, oar, branch or towel to pull the person to safety. If there are no other options, lie down on the dock, grab the person’s hand or wrist, and pull them to safety. If the victim is out of reach, toss them a PFD or any floating object. 

Should a rowboat be accessible, you can row to the person and utilize your oar or paddle to transport him or her to the stern, or rear. As you paddle to shore, allow the victim to grasp the stern. If the person is lacking strength, hold onto him or her until help arrives. If a powerboat is being used, shut off the engine and transfer the victim in the direction the wind is blowing.

It’s unsafe for swimmers who haven’t had lifesaving training to swim toward someone in distress; seek assistance instead. If you feel compelled to swim, make sure to have a floating device to keep a barrier between you and the individual in danger.

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