The July 4th holiday is usually the busiest day of the boating season, and unfortunately, it can also be the most dangerous. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, the Fourth of July, Memorial Day and Labor Day typically account for more than 1/3 of all boating-related accidents. With this in mind, the Coast Guard urges boaters to vigilantly follow safety protocol during the busy summer boating season and especially on July 4th. Don’t become a statistic; here are 7 tips to stay safe on the water on Independence Day.



File a Float Plan. Similar to a flight plan for pilots, a float plan lists who’s going on your boat, where you’re going, and when you plan to return. Share this info with a contact who’ll be staying ashore, and advise them what to do in the event that you don’t return home within a reasonable time of your estimated return. Visit here for more info.


Check Equipment. Make sure your boat’s equipment is functioning properly. If the 4th of July is the first and/or only time you venture out on the water after dark, double check that your navigation lights work. You can request a free Vessel Safety Check to make sure your boat has the legally required and recommended equipment onboard.


Prepare for Emergencies. Since accidents can happen with little or no warning, you and your crew should be familiar with basic emergency procedures such as how to contact authorities via marine radio or cell phone. If you boat in an area that requires flares, make sure they are up to date. NEVER use flares as a form of fireworks. This constitutes a false distress call—a class D felony—punishable by up to six years in prison and fines up to $250,000.


Practice the Three C’s—Caution, Courtesy, and Common Sense. Use caution when maneuvering through situations with other boats. Use courtesy toward your fellow boaters; never cut people off at the launch ramp. And use common sense by never lighting fireworks from your boat.


Always Wear Life Jackets: In the middle of an emergency situation, it’s too late to try to wriggle into a life jacket. Studies consistently show that most riders in boating accidents were not wearing life jackets.


Don’t Drink and Boat: Using alcohol can inhibit the operator’s ability to make good judgments and negatively affects passengers’ ability to respond in emergency situations. In addition, intoxicated boaters can face federal and state charges with penalties of up to one year in prison and fines up to $100,000.


Stay Alert: Always be aware of your surroundings. This means being on the lookout for other boats, weather, personal watercrafts, swimmers and more.


Report any emergencies to local authorities by calling 911.

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