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Spring has sprung and everyone seems ready to head to the lake or river for enjoyment on the water. Before joining the mad dash to the shore, put into practice these twelve ways to stay safer and avoid boating accidents. The five top reasons accidents occur on water include:

● Inattentive operator
● Inexperienced operator
● Travel at excessive speed
● Improper lookout
● Operator impeded by alcohol/drugs

A little preparation before hitting the water can go a long way.

1. Wear a life jacket. It is important that each passenger is wearing a life jacket, and not to just have the life jackets available on the watercraft. In an emergency, you may not have time to put the jacket on. In the case of an accident, a life jacket can make the difference between life and death. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, in 85 percent of boating deaths the deceased did not wear a life jacket.

2. Think of all watercraft as a motorboat. The law does. Seadoos and Jet Skis (also called personal watercraft) are often involved in accidents, but that doesn’t mean they’re more dangerous. When people operating them lack common courtesy, risk is higher. Personal watercraft must adhere to the same laws as boats, including carrying safety equipment like life preservers and a fire extinguisher.

3. Don’t speed. Regardless of the type or size of craft, stay at a safe speed. Speeding ranks as the top cause for Jet Ski accidents.

4. Know the craft and how to operate it. If you’re inexperienced at boating, have a knowledgeable friend show you ropes before commandeering a craft. If you rent, have the rental company representative review the controls and safety equipment with you. Also, understand boating laws and navigational rules.

5. Pay attention. Boats don’t have brake; the ability to spot potential danger and react quickly is a must. If you are tired and need a break, find a spot to drop anchor.

6. Make your passengers behave. They should remain seated while the boat is moving and not obstruct your view. Erratic passenger behaviour can get you pulled over on the water and land you a ticket. Worse, it can cause an accident.

7. Maintain your watercraft. Equipment failure can cause accidents. Make sure batteries are fully charged before you leave the dock. Check navigational lights before launching. If you remain on the water past sunset, you’ll still be able to see.

8. Avoid reckless operation of watercraft. On a boat, don’t let passengers ride on the bow, transom, or gunwales while moving. Don’t splash other boats or small craft like Seadoos or Jet Skis. When riding a personal watercraft, don’t wake jump with other craft nearby.

9. Know navigational rules and adhere to them. Failure to yield causes many crashes. Take a boating education class before your first trip so you know the ins and outs of being a good captain, including the meanings of “stand on” and “give way.”

10. Crowded waters make for dangerous waters. Just as congested roads cause accidents, so do congested waters. Weekends, holidays, and spring break require additional care.

11. Don’t drink and drive applies to the water, too. Have a designated boat operator who isn’t drinking. Drinking and operating a boat can get the operator pulled over and ticketed with a DUI.

12. Overloading the watercraft leads to unsafe conditions. Know the maximum weight your boat can handle. It’s noted on the manufacturer’s capacity plate.

Keeping safety in mind allows everyone to have a better, safer time. Remember to check the weather before you head out. Throw a couple of new songs on your iPod; pack the potato salad in plenty of ice. If you do receive a ticket or have an accident while on the water, call us at Michelle Linka Law Professional Corporation, (416) 477-7288, for help.

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