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    What You Should Know Before Going Boating or Swimming

    What You Should Know Before Going Boating or Swimming

    Photo By Pamela Doty | By: R.J. Garren read more read more



    Story by Pamela Doty 

    U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Water Safety

    If you know how to swim, you probably think you don’t have any chance of drowning while boating or swimming. However, many who are believed to be good swimmers drown every year. Knowing some of the causes of drowning in natural waters such as lakes, rivers, and ponds could help you avoid becoming one of those drowning fatality statistics.

    When I talk to people about drownings associated with boating and swimming, they always think that those involved were just drinking too much and that’s not always true. The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) reports that alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in recreational boater deaths and a leading contributor in boating accidents. However, according to USCG statistics in the past five years, alcohol is only involved in an average of less than 18% of boating deaths. What you may not know is that the effects of sun, glare, wind, noise, and motion (vibration) of a boat are boating stressors that can slow your reaction time almost as much as if you were legally intoxicated. Adding alcohol to this condition intensifies the effects of these boating stressors, and multiplies your risks of being involved in a boating accident. Therefore, one of the risk factors with boating is that riding on a boat for a few hours can impair your judgment, balance, vision, and reaction time as if you were intoxicated.

    The nation’s leading provider of water-based recreation with over 400 lakes in 43 states is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). Their water-related fatality statistics from the past twenty years identify that the leading contributing factor in drowning deaths is swimming outside of designated beach areas and around boats. Sadly 47% of individuals who drown were swimming. If people are intentionally entering the water without wearing a life jacket, it’s logical to expect that they thought they knew how to swim. Perhaps that is based on experiences of swimming in pools or places where you can easily get to safety or touch the bottom. However, when you have to deal with wave action or current in natural waters, your swimming ability may not be as good as you think, especially if you don’t swim on a regular basis.

    Also according to USACE, falls are the second leading cause of drowning death. Almost 19% of people who drown fall into the natural waters unexpectedly from a boat, dock, or shoreline. The sudden surprise of entering water that is less than body temperature can cause an involuntary gasp reflex. It doesn’t take much water in your lungs to drown, so the water inhaled when an involuntary gasp occurs could cause you to drown.

    Kayaks and standup paddleboards (SUPs) are becoming less expensive so more people are buying them. Along with the increasing popularity of paddling, drowning fatalities associated with paddle craft are on the upswing because the risk of falling overboard is high. In addition to wearing a life jacket, those on SUPs need to wear a leash specifically designed for the types of water they paddle. There are different kinds of leashes and leash releases, so you need to choose the right one for the type of water (flat or moving) you’re paddling on. The American Canoe Association has videos online that describe leashes and other things like paddle craft re-boarding techniques that can help you become a better and safer paddler.

    The best way to avoid becoming a drowning fatality statistic is to find a life jacket that fits your particular water recreational activity and wear it because 89% of those who drown were not wearing one. The inflatable, belt-style life jackets that are operated manually by pulling a cord could be just what you need for swimming. All you need to do is pull the cord when you need help. Inherently-buoyant foam or automatically-operated inflatable life jackets are best in areas where you could enter the water unexpectedly like from a boat, dock, or shoreline. Share this information with your loved ones and encourage them to always wear a life jacket. Learn more life-saving tips on boating and water safety at



    Date Taken: 06.12.2019
    Date Posted: 06.12.2019 20:12
    Story ID: 327102
    Location: US

    Web Views: 107
    Downloads: 0