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Boating Safety

Everyone, on all types of boats, should wear properly-fitted life jackets, or personal flotation devices (PFD). By wearing a life jacket, you can dramatically decrease your chances of drowning in a boating incident.

Know the Facts

Recreational boating — enjoyed by more than 70,000,000 Americans each year — can be a wonderful way to spend time with family and friends. And making boating safety a priority can ensure that it stays fun.

Consider this:

  • In 2009, 3,358 people were injured and 736 died in boating incidents. Of those who drowned, nine out of 10 were not wearing life jackets.
  • Of the people who died in a boating accident in 2009, more than seven out of 10 (73 percent) drowned. More than 90 percent of them were not wearing a life jacket.
  • Alcohol use was the leading contributing factor in fatal boating incidents.

Reduce Your Risk

Whenever you are headed out on the water, keep these tips from the U.S. Coast Guard in mind:

Wear it. Properly fitted life jackets can prevent drowning and should be worn by everyone on any boat, at all times. Coast Guard-approved life jackets are now better looking and more comfortable.

Don't Drink. Alcohol use affects judgment, vision, balance, and coordination. Reports suggest that alcohol was a contributing factor in about one in five boating fatalities.

Take a Course. People operating boats can help keep their passengers safe. Boating education courses teach the regulatory and statutory rules ("Rules of the Road") for safe operation and navigation of recreational boats.

Get a Vessel Safety Check. The Vessel Safety Check (VSC) is a free public service provided by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and U.S. Power Squadron volunteer organizations. For more information on the VSC Program, go to VesselSafetyCheck.org.

Know about carbon monoxide (CO). All internal combustion engines, such as boat engines and onboard motor generators, emit CO, an odorless, colorless, poisonous gas. In the early stages, the symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to seasickness, but CO can kill in a matter of minutes. To avoid CO poisoning, be aware of the risk, ensure sufficient ventilation, properly install and maintain equipment, and use CO detectors, especially in living and sleeping areas.

Also, be sure to check state and local requirements, available from the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators.

Above content provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in partnership with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.

Posted June 2013

Contact Information

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
330 Brookline Avenue, Boston, MA 02215
Main Switchboard: 617-667-7000
Find a Doctor: 800-667-5356
Directions by Phone: 617-667-3000
TDD (for hearing impaired): 800-439-0183