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Boating Safety & PFDs*

The leading cause of fatalities in boating accidents is drowning. Therefore, assuring that your child knows how to swim and that he or she knows how to select, put on, adjust and use personal floatation devices (PFDs) is extremely important.

Always wear US Coast Guard approved PFDs. Each approved PFD will have a U.S. Coast Guard label specifying the size of person it should be used for. It is important that your PFD be properly sized and adjusted. If the PFD is not the right size or is improperly adjusted, it will restrict swimming movements and may even, if it is too large, be dangerous. A child could slip out of his/her PFD and it may not perform in the way it was intended in regards to the wearer's body float position. Remember, a personal floatation device cannot help you if you are not wearing it.

There are federal and state laws that require certain equipment to be carried aboard boasts. This equipment may vary, depending on the type of boat on which it is being used, e.g., canoe, sailboat, powerboat. Check with your local authorities to determine which equipment is required for the type of boat you are using. Be sure all the equipment on your boat is in good working order and that the occupants of the boat know how to use it.

When a boat is operated on any waterway, certain rules must be followed. These are the traffic rules and are similar to the rules that are followed while driving an automobile. Their purpose is to prevent accidents. These rules can be complicated and you should obtain a complete listing from the appropriate authorities in your area. The most basic rules are:

Motorboats must give right of way to manually propelled craft.
While your boat is moving, it is always necessary to know where other boats are around you.

Never overload your boat. There should be a capacity rating plate on your boat. This will include information such as maximum size of motor that should be used, maximum number of persons that should be carried, by weight, and maximum total weight carrying capacity of the boat.

Never overpower your boat. The boat is designed for certain sizes of motors. A bigger-than-recommended size of motor can cause the boat to handle quite differently than intended/normal.

Never stand up in a boat or sit on the side with your legs or arms hanging over when the boat is moving. You could fall overboard (or fall in the boat). Your arms or legs could be injured by hitting something, or they could hit the water and pull you over the side.

Never operate a boat or tow water skiers near a swimming area. You may not see swimmers and might hit them.

Get to shelter at the first sign of bad weather. A storm can overtake you very quickly.

The following organizations and websites provide valuable information regarding boating safety and personal flotation devices (PFD):

The names of child PFD manufacturers are available upon request from Ron Gilbert.

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