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Central Texas has beautiful lakes, and for the first time in six years these water sources are full. As summertime approaches there will be lots of boats out on the water, increasing the risk for injury.

Every year, there are more than 4,000 boating-related accidents across the nation, causing over 500 deaths and many more injuries. The majority of these deaths were due to drowning, and 90 percent of those who drowned were not wearing a life jacket.

The Trauma Center at St. David’s Round Rock Medical Center offers the following safety tips to local residents who plan to ride a boat or jet ski this summer.

Buy the appropriate life jackets.
There are different types of life jackets for specific activities, various types of water, and all ages. Do your research and ensure that you have the appropriate U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket for the water or boating activity you are planning. Some life jackets may not provide the safety needed for boating on rough waters. Remember to have enough life jackets on board for each person, and that children under the age of 13 must wear a life jacket at all times.

Identify an educated and experienced boat operator.
The person driving the boat or jet ski should understand the “nautical rules” of navigation, including maintaining a proper lookout and a safe speed. Lack of experience, improper lookout and excessive speed are top causes of boating accidents. Completing a boating safety course is a great way to become educated and avoid operator-related incidents, which account for 70 percent of boating accidents.

Stay sober while boating.
Just like driving under the influence, it is illegal to operate a boat or jet ski under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Alcohol is a contributing factor in 25 percent of the boating accidents that occur every year.

Beware of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas that is produced by all watercraft engines. Boaters could become sick and potentially die from CO exposure while inside boats with cabins, or even being close to the rear swim platform while the engine is running. Install detectors on your boat, and stay off the swim platform while the engine is running. Slow speeds and idling can cause CO to accumulate quickly, even in open areas.

Practice caution around the boat’s propeller.
Educate your passengers to the location of the boat’s propeller, and always kill the engine before allowing any passengers to enter or exit the boat into the water. When picking up a passenger who has been skiing or tubing, completely turn off the engine (do not even idle) before allowing the person to come close to the boat. The operator should have eyes on the person in the water at all times.

Keep rescue equipment on board.
Be prepared for emergency situations by maintaining rescue equipment on board, including a fire extinguisher, visual distress signals, sound signals, cellphone, first aid kit, bailing device, throw line, extra drinking water, sunscreen and extra fuel. Always be aware of the weather forecast when out on a boat.

Become trained in CPR and first aid.
It can take longer for EMS to get to you on the water. If a medical emergency arises, use visual and sound distress signals to alert that you need help, call 911, and initiate CPR or first aid.

Boating out on the water can be a fun way to spend your summer. By following these tips and performing the scheduled maintenance on your boat as needed, you will help keep family and friends safe.

Kristen Hullum, MSN, RN,
Trauma injury prevention coordinator
St. David’s Round Rock Medical Center

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