Our Opinion: Launch boating season equipped with safety

Buoyed by warm temperatures, boating season has begun.

Safe boating begins before a vessel is launched, according to the Water Patrol Division within the Missouri Highway Patrol.

The patrol reminds:

• Missouri law requires people born after Jan. 1, 1984, to carry a boater safety certification card along with a picture ID anytime they operate a vessel, which includes personal watercraft, on Missouri lakes. This also applies to minors operating a vessel with supervision. A complete list of available boating safety courses is available at the patrol’s website, www.mshp.dps.mo.gov.

• Be sure all required equipment is on board. A complete list of required equipment is available at www.boat-ed.com/mo/handbook/checklist.htm. Approved life jackets are required for every person on board. People required to wear life jackets at all times are children under age 7, water skiers and riders aboard personal watercraft.

• Inspect your vessel and its operating equipment, including navigation lights, horns, fire extinguishers, mufflers and ventilation. A comprehensive list of inspection stations also may be found on the patrol’s website.

When on the water, safety recommendations and requirements are similar to those that apply to motorists. Among them:

• Be alert and aware of others. Drive on the right side of the channel or cove and look before you turn.

• Operating a motorboat or personal watercraft in excess of 30 mph is illegal from 30 minutes after sunset until one hour before sunrise.

• Use navigation lights between sunset and sunrise.

• When towing a person on water skis, inner tube or similar device, have an approved ski mirror or another person aboard to observe the person or people being towed. In addition, an orange or red skier down flag must be displayed any time people are in the water.

• Riding on the bow, gunwales, railing, top seat back and decking over the back of a motorboat is prohibited.

• Heed marker buoys, such as “No Wake” buoys.

• Operating a boat while impaired by alcohol or drugs is unlawful.

The patrol reports, on average, 700 people die each year in the U.S. in boating-related accidents.

Avoid becoming one of those statistics by practicing safe boating.

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