News & Features Home

Wear life jacket, follow rules, boat safely

Wear life jacket, follow rules, boat safely

RICHMOND—Many people spend their summers—or part of their summers—on lakes and rivers, boating and having a good time.

"While it’s fun to boat on the open waters, it also is important to do so safely," said Jimmy Maass, safety coordinator for Virginia Farm Bureau. "Too many boating accidents occur each year, and many could have been avoided if careful attention was placed on boating safety."

In 2009, more than 75 percent of all fatal U.S. boating accident victims drowned; of those who drowned, 84 percent were not wearing a life jacket.

"Wearing a life jacket is one of the simplest and easiest things anyone on a boat can do to protect themselves—whether you can swim or not," Maass said. "It’s important that boaters of all ages and on any size watercraft wear a life jacket at all times while on the water. The ones available today are lighter and less obtrusive, so there’s really no excuse not to wear one."

Equally important is not drinking while operating watercraft.

"You don’t drink and drive on the highway, so why would it be OK to do it on the open waters? It’s not," Maass said. He noted that a boat operator with a blood-alcohol content greater than .10 is 10 times more likely to die in an accident.

"Besides asking for trouble, operating a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal in Virginia and a violation of federal law," he said.

While operating a boat, stay alert to all hazards, and maintain control of the boat while respecting the rights-of-way of others. Avoid operating a boat in adverse weather or rough water. Keep an eye on the sky and listen to a radio for reports of changing weather conditions.

Before heading to the water, thoroughly inspect the boat to make sure everything is in proper working order and the appropriate safety gear is on board.

Remember that all boat engines produce carbon monoxide, an odorless, colorless, poisonous gas. Be aware of the early symptoms of carbon monoxide exposure—irritated eyes, headache, nausea, weakness and dizziness—and keep everyone away from the exhaust, especially individuals being towed.

For more information on safe boating, visit

Contact Maass at 804-290-1379.