fishing man boatOWENSBORO, Ky. (6/27/13) – As many Kentuckians get set for a July Fourth holiday spent relaxing on the water, Kentucky Farm Bureau (KFB) urges boaters, swimmers, fishers and skiers to be keenly aware of their surroundings and exercise caution while enjoying a day on the lake.

The Bluegrass State touts more than 90,000 miles of shoreline and, as a result, has more miles of navigable water than any other state in the union except Alaska. With that much water to be enjoyed, Kentucky’s seemingly innumerable lakes and rivers attract tens of thousands of people to recreational boating each summer. Such a high volume of traffic on the water necessitates greater attention to safety from every boater.

A historical look through KFB Insurance claims data reveals that June and July are the peak months for boating accident occurrences. The two top reasons for KFB’s boating accident claims – collisions, and upsets or overturns – are commonly associated with driver error. Well more than half ($3.8 million) of the $6.7 million that KFB Insurance paid out for 1,478 boating accident claims during the last five years came from those two categories alone.

“Taking shortcuts with boating safety can be risky business,” said Randy Chrisman, Chair of KFB’s Safety & Rural Health Advisory Committee. “A day on the lake is a great way to feel like you’re getting away from it all, but boaters need to enjoy that freedom in a way that keeps themselves and those around them safe.”

According to the National Safe Boating Council (NSBC), 70% of recreational boating accidents are caused by operator factors. The U.S. Coast Guard supports this fact and advises that collision with another vessel or object can frequently be avoided by posting a lookout to help navigate around obstacles, knowing and following the nautical rules of navigation, and slowing down when in unfamiliar waters or maneuvering in close-quarter situations, such as approaching or leaving a dock.

It is additionally important to remember that operating a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is not only illegal in all states and a violation of federal law, but it is also extremely dangerous. The NSBC says that a boater with a blood alcohol content of .08 (equivalent to a 180-lb. male consuming five beers in one hour) is 10 times more likely to die in a boating accident than a boater with a zero blood alcohol level.

Fortunately for KFB policy-holders, most boating accidents submitted as insurance claims have not resulted in bodily harm (just 0.3%), but it is advisable to recognize that accidents with injuries do happen.

Keeping a few simple pieces of equipment on board can help lessen the effect of an accident when and if it occurs:
•Life jackets are a must. Both state and federal law requires a Type I, II or III personal flotation device on all boats. Vessels greater than 16 feet in length must also have a Type IV, or throwable, personal flotation device. All children 12 and under are required to wear a life jacket whenever a boat is in motion.
•State law requires all boats equipped with a petroleum product consuming device (engine, lantern, stove, etc.) to have a handheld fire extinguisher on board.
•Boats 16 feet or longer are required by Kentucky law to have a signaling device capable of producing an audible blast for at least two seconds and that can be heard for a half-mile. Boats 26-feet or longer must have a device that is audible for a mile, and vessels 40 feet or longer must have one with an audible range of 1.5 miles.
•Any vessel operating on the water between sunset and sunrise must display proper navigation lights. Sidelights are required on the bow (front) of the boat – red on the port (left), green on the starboard (right) – and an all-around white light in the stern (rear). This helps give boaters an indication of the size and speed of other boats on the water when visibility is limited and indicates if a boat is in a meeting, crossing or overtaking position.

For more boating safety tips and a complete listing of state and federal regulations regarding boat registration, operation, navigation and equipment on Kentucky’s waterways, download the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources’ 2013-14 Fishing and Boating Guide.

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