Boating Safety: Remain Vigilant while on the Water

Boating is a popular choice of summer activity for groups across the country. Whether your group uses canoes on a winding river, rafts on a whitewater rapid, kayaks on a lake, or motorboats in the open ocean, these precautions will help keep your group safe on the water:

  • Plan your group’s itinerary, specifying where your boats and other vehicles should be and when.

  • Make sure that your group leaders have knowledge about the area, including specific water features: dams, rocks, debris, currents, sandbars, undertows, currents, and riptides. Communicate these dangers to the group, as well as information about dangerous local wildlife, like snakes, snapping turtles, and jellyfish.
  • Chaperones and participants should know how to identify common hazards, and how to react when one is sighted. Stay vigilant for other boats and/or swimmers to avoid collisions.
  • Avoid areas with rapidly moving water, such as rivers or rapids, without an experienced guide.
  • Boating groups should bring whistles, flares, first-aid kits, food, water, sunscreen, waterproof bags, towels, and extra clothing

Recruit experienced drivers

Recruit only experienced drivers, and place at least one adult spotter in each boat (in addition to the driver). Advise your drivers to avoid high speeds and sharp turns. Take particular care to prevent these common causes of accidents:

  • Operator inexperience
  • Operator inattention
  • Reckless maneuvering (or speeding, in some contexts)
  • Alcohol use

Be observant; watch out for other boats

Watch for other boats, especially slow- and fast-moving boats. Fishing vessels in open water and boats of swimmers and sunbathers anchored at sandbars both tend to be stationary or slow moving. In contrast, individual watercraft—as well as motorboats pulling tubers and skiers—tend to move quickly and turn suddenly. Keep an eye out for both situations.

If your group is taking motorboats, consider bringing paddles, a tow strap, and/or a cell phone in case one of the boats suffers a motor failure. Whether your group plans for a day of tubing or a lazy afternoon canoeing downriver, perform your due diligence to promote safety while your group is on the water.