With the summer boating season just around the corner, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) reminds boaters to put safety first before hitting the water.
While every boating trip during any season should begin with safety measures, this week provides an opportunity to remind recreational boaters about some of the most basic steps they can take to ensure a fun and safe season on the water:
- Wear a life jacket. Law requires that you have a lifejacket on board for every person on your boat. Children ages 12 and under must always wear a life jacket when aboard a boat less than 20 feet in length, including all canoes and kayaks. In 2018, 14 recreational boating fatalities occurred in Pennsylvania. Only three victims were wearing a life jacket. According to Pennsylvania boating accident reports, roughly 80-percent of all boating fatalities occur annually because boaters were not wearing life jackets. Life jackets must be U.S. Coast Guard approved and properly fit the individual, including children and infants.
- Never boat under the influence (BUI). Alcohol use increases the chances of having an accident. Alcohol affects balance, coordination and judgment. It is illegal to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance. BUI Penalties include loss of boating privileges, significant fines and imprisonment. Waterways Conservation Officers will be on patrol throughout the summer looking for impaired boaters.
- File a float plan. Let someone know where you are planning to boat and when you expect to return. Plans can change when you’re having fun, but keeping someone aware of your location throughout the day can ensure that help arrives quickly if you experience a mechanical or medical emergency while on the water. Carry a ‘dry bag’ to keep your cell phone and other valuables in while boating.
- Take a basic boating safety course. In Pennsylvania, all boaters born after December 31, 1981 or who operate a personal watercraft (such as a jet ski), regardless of age must have a Pennsylvania Boating Safety Certificate. Courses are available online or in classroom settings. Visit www.fishandboat.com to find an online course, or classroom course near you.
- Have proper registrations and launch permits. In Pennsylvania, all powered boats must be registered with the PFBC. Unpowered boats, such as kayaks and canoes, do not require registration. However, to use a PFBC or DCNR public boat access along any waterway including those within state parks, you must either register the boat or obtain a launch permit issued by either the PFBC or the DCNR.