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Boating Safety

Boating Safety | UPMC Health Plan

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the third leading cause of death in males is by unintentional injuries or accidents. With the weather finally starting to break, it is officially becoming boating season. Boating can be a fun activity for the entire family, whether you own your own boat or just rent one for a day. I’ve been going out on boats just about every summer since I was about 6 months old and look forward to it each year. However, boating can be dangerous if proper precautions are not followed, whether you are out on a lake or one of Pittsburgh’s three rivers.

Boating Safety Courses

Before operating any vessel, you should complete a boater’s safety course. Many are available online and teach valuable lessons about the proper operation and maintenance of a boat. While on the water, you must follow navigation rules, and a safety course will teach on all of these.


You should have at least one U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) approved flotation device for each passenger on board. Be sure to wear lifejackets while the boat is under way, which is the law in most states. Most boats also are required to have a throwable flotation device on board for any emergency.

State Laws

Always check the specific state laws for operating a vessel. They vary from state to state. Be sure to check what the requirements to operate a vessel are before heading out on the water. Each state has different requirements for ages to operate a vessel and different laws regarding acquiring a boating license.

Equipment check

At the beginning of every boating season and before each time you head out on the water, always be sure to do an equipment check. Check the engine and keep up on preventive maintenance by changing the oil and filters and checking the battery and sparkplugs, to name a few. Be sure that there is a properly functioning fire extinguisher, lights, horns, and bilge pump, and always make sure the drain plug is in before launching, or it could be a very costly mistake! Many marinas will perform an equipment check for you if you are not sure of what should be replaced or repaired.


When swimming off of a boat, always make sure the engine is turned off before entering the water. Be sure to stay close to the boat and wear bright-colored lifejackets to help stay visible in the water. When anchoring, find a quiet place near the shoreline and not in the middle of the water where other boaters likely to be moving at higher speeds.

Weather check

Before heading out for the day, check the weather report to be aware of any potentially hazardous conditions. If you notice dark clouds or sudden changes in air temperature, start heading to shore or back to the marina.

By following a few simple steps, you can have a fun and safe summer while out on the water!