Boat safety and Oklahoma may not seem to be words one would find together in a sentence, but here they are and for good reason. We’ve put together a few tips, resources and facts to help you keep you and yours safe.
Though landlocked in the middle of the United States, Oklahoma has shoreline equal to more than half of the entire nation’s coastal shoreline. Thanks to its many lakes and ponds, Oklahoma has 55,646 miles of shoreline. Additionally, all of Oklahoma’s lakes and ponds put together contain just over 1,400 square miles of water area. That’s an area larger than the state of Rhode Island. So with all of this water everywhere, that’s why boat safety is just as important in Oklahoma as it is anywhere else with enough water to float a boat. Here are some boat safety tips to keep you safe in Oklahoma’s many waters.
Preserve Life with a Life Preserver
Sure, you’ve heard it all your life: If you are going to be boating, wear a life vest. Yes, they’re big, ugly and uncomfortable, but when you are on the water having fun, anything can happen to turn your bliss into your worst nightmare. That ugly vest may be the very thing that keeps you or your loved ones alive.
In fact, according to the United States Coast Guard’s recreational boating statistics from 2014 where a cause of death was known, 78 percent of fatalities resulting from a boating accident were due to drowning. Of those who drowned, 84 percent were not wearing life preservers. In Oklahoma, state law requires children who are 13 years old or younger to wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket while underway on any vessel less than 26 feet long.
Pointers from the Coast Guard:
- Make sure your life jacket is appropriate for your water activity. Water skiing and canoeing life preservers are different. You don’t want to wear one for the other activity.
- One size may not fit all. Be sure the life jacket fits, especially for children. A life preserver too large for a child will do that child no or little good and could be dangerous. Use one that fits them now — not one they will “grow into.”
- Ensure the life preserver is in good working order, without holes and tears or frayed straps.
Don’t let your loved one become another drowning statistic this boating season. Use life jackets.
Before floating your boat, get educated about operating it. Just like how you can’t just buy a car and drive it without first learning the rules of the road and best driving practices, the same is true for boating. There are rules and regulations for the water as well. Good News! You may qualify for an insurance discount on your watercraft insurance!
Oklahoma law requires those between ages 12 and 16 to finish an approved boating safety course before hitting the waves with a boat powered by a motor greater than 10 horsepower or a sailboat 16 feet or longer.
Available free through the OHP Marine Enforcement Section, though required for youth, anyone can take these courses. The classes typically take less than eight hours and upon completion, you may receive a discount for your boater’s insurance policy.
- Three classroom options offered by Oklahoma Highway Patrol, the U.S Coast Guard Auxiliary and U.S Power Squadron.
- Approved online options offered by Boat Oklahoma, Boater Exam Oklahoma, and Boat U.S. Foundation and American Boat Operator’s course.
Be Aware, Be Smart and Be the Adult
Just like with driving, just because you may know the rules and exercise common sense on the water doesn’t mean others will or do. Expect that. When you are driving, you need to watch for vehicles, drivers, pedestrians, and pets. On the water, you should be even more vigilant of obstacles in the water, since unlike the road, is a recreational area full of even more random obstacles.
There you will find swimmers, jet skiers, water skiers, fishermen and so on — partially under water. Watch out for them. Stay aware while operating your watercraft.
Be Weather Aware
We all know how in Oklahoma the weather can change in a split second, especially in the spring and fall seasons. Before hitting the water, check out the forecast. Make sure to be off the water in periods of high wind or during storms, especially considering as how you and your vessel could be the highest objects on the water during a thunderstorm and thence attract lightning.
Don’t Drink and Drive
The same is true on the water as on the road. If you are operating a boat on the water, you are responsible for your craft, the safety of those on your boat and those on and in the water around you.
Just as we said in the tips above that you must be extra vigilant due to all the kinds of recreation that happen on the water, alcohol, as you know, inhibits your awareness and thence your ability to be safe and to protect others. In light of this, you and your secondary (back-up) operator, if you have one, should wait to enjoy your alcohol off the water.
Boating Safety Tips – Stay Safe While Having Fun
Have fun and let these boat safety tips help your time on the water be safe this boating season. If you have any more questions concerning boat safety or insurance, please give us at Omega Insurance a call at 405-769-6701.