(National Safe Boating Council) Labor Day marks the last big summer hurrah for many people, with boaters enjoying beautiful waterways with families and friends. However, a fun day on the water could go wrong in an instant.
“My friend Conner and I were thrown from our boat due to a hydraulic steering part failure, and we are fortunate we didn’t drown or get struck by a propeller,” said sport fisherman Hunter Bland of the University of Florida Bass Fishing. “Thankfully, we wore our life jackets and used an engine cut-off device, or we most likely would not be alive today.”
An engine cut-off device is a proven safety device used to stop the boat’s engine should the operator unexpectedly fall overboard when the boat hits a wave, wake, takes a sharp turn, runs into a submerged object, suffers steering failure, and more. Typically, a lanyard attaches the boat operator to the system, and wireless device options are available as well. Some are designed to kill the engine should passengers fall overboard.
“Wearing a life jacket and using an engine cut-off device are two very simple, yet life-saving safety measures all boaters should always do,” said Rachel Johnson, CAE, executive director of the National Safe Boating Council. The Council is the lead organization for the North American Safe Boating Campaign, a yearlong effort focused on boating safety.
U.S. Coast Guard statistics show that 509 people drowned during recreational boating activities in 2016, and 83 percent of those reported drownings were not wearing life jackets. There also were 171 accidents in which at least one person was struck by a propeller. Collectively, these propeller accidents resulted in 24 deaths and 175 injuries.
“A life jacket can keep someone afloat until rescue assets arrive, and an engine cut-off device can prevent propeller-related injuries, many of which occur after a person falls overboard and is subsequently hit by the vessel’s propulsion unit as the vessel circles around,” continued Johnson.
The North American Safe Boating Campaign unites the efforts of a wide variety of boating safety advocates and is produced under a grant from the Sports Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund, administered by the U.S. Coast Guard. www.safeboatingcampaign.com.