The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) is reminding Ohioans that, no matter your experience level, it is important to focus on safety anytime you’re on or near the water. Gov. Mike DeWine is emphasizing the importance of safety by recognizing this week as National Safe Boating Week.
“I urge everyone with plans to be on the water this summer to brush up on boating safety skills in advance of boating season,” Gov. DeWine said. “Ohio’s rivers and lakes are great places for family fun when boaters make safety a priority.”
According to the National Safe Boating Council, 81% of boating fatalities in the U.S. are caused by drowning. In Ohio in 2022, there were 17 boating fatalities, 12 of which were caused by drowning. Life jackets were properly worn in only three of the fatal incidents in 2022.
Today’s life jackets are much more comfortable, lightweight, and stylish than in the past. There are innovative options, such as inflatable life jackets, allowing mobility and flexibility for activities. They are also much cooler in the warmer weather. When selecting a life jacket, boaters should ensure it is U.S. Coast Guard approved, appropriate for the water activity, and fits properly.
“We are all looking forward to a great Ohio boating season for paddlers and powerboaters alike,” ODNR Director Mary Mertz said. “Now is the time to review the essentials of boating safety so that a day of fun stays that way.”
The National Safe Boating Council and the ODNR recommend these tips for boaters:
- Wear your life jacket and make sure everyone else on your boat also wears a life jacket.
- Take a boating safety class. Gain valuable knowledge and experience in a boating safety course with many options for novice to experienced boaters. Find a safe boating course here.
- Carry all required safety gear. Inspect equipment for holes, tears, and other damage.
- File a float plan. Always let someone on shore know the trip itinerary, including information about all passengers, boat type and registration, and communication on board.
- Be aware of weather and water conditions. Always check the forecast before departing on the water.
- Boat sober and be considerate of others. Be aware of other boaters around you and designate a sober skipper.
- In case of an emergency, power boaters should use the engine cut-off device, which is a proven way to stop the boat’s engine should the operator unexpectedly fall overboard.
- Review the Ohio Boat Operator’s Guide for safety tips, navigation information, and more.
In addition to offering boating safety courses, ODNR’s Natural Resource Officers provide complimentary boat safety inspections and on-the-water patrols to assist boaters. Earlier this spring, more than 60 officers from various Ohio law enforcement agencies including four new ODNR officers, have been certified in Ohio’s Basic Marine Patrol Training course which covers boating laws and rules, boat operation skills, and how to conduct effective vessel stops as well as assist boaters in distress or arrest boaters operating watercraft under the influence.