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Watch out for these common causes of boating accidents

With summer here and vacation time to use, a popular source of recreation in the Chicago area is to go boating on Lake Michigan. It can be relaxing or thrilling to feel the wind, sun and waves.

But it can also be a risky activity. Be aware of the common causes of accidents so you can try to avoid them and have a safe summer.

Speeding

Speeding does not just happen on land. In fact, it may be easier to speed on waterways because there are no lanes, stoplights, bumper-to-bumper traffic and other impediments to speed. However, it is just as dangerous, as high speeds lead to greater property and bodily damage.

Failing to take safety measures

Boats must have proper safety equipment on board to prevent and manage emergencies, including the following items:

  • Sufficient lighting for nighttime rides
  • Enough (and the right-sized) life vests for all passengers
  • Throwable flotation device
  • Loud horn
  • Flares
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Tools and replacement parts

The National Safe Boating Council has a checklist to use, which shows both equipment that is legally mandatory and that which is not but smart to have anyway.

Not seeing water skiers

You and your friends may go out on the water to ski and participate in other water sports that require towing from a boat. Other boaters may not pay enough attention to skiers and may accidentally hit them.

Operating a boat while intoxicated

Boating is a form of entertainment. People like to party on watercraft, and more often than not, that means alcohol will be present. Just as it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle on the road while drunk, so it is illegal to do so on water. Alcohol and other drugs impair boat operators in the same way as car drivers: slower reaction times, poorer judgment and decreased vision. However, the impairment happens more quickly on a boat due to dehydration and the rocky motion that puts stress on your body.

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