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Boating and water sports pose some unique risks to children, primarily because they combine all the normal risks of drowning with both speed and deeper waters. For example, when you wakeboard, your body can travel at up to 40 m.p.h., can hit the water with 3,000 pounds of force, and, lacking a life jacket, a person’s body would sink in 5 seconds. A child would disappear in seconds and be on their way to the bottom before the boat could even turn around in such an accident. When you combine deep water with high speeds, disastrous things can happen.

There is really only one all-important boating / water recreation safety rule for kids: wear a life jacket. The U.S. Coast Guard estimates that life jackets could prevent approximately two-thirds of all boating-related drowning deaths in children ages 14 and under. So always have kids wear a personal floatation device when boating or doing other water recreation sports, even if they are otherwise good swimmers.

Explain that it’s not a matter of their swimming ability, but of the potential for other accidents. Even the best swimmers will drown if they’re knocked unconscious, or will find it difficult to keep afloat with a broken leg. If a child falls out of a speed boat, the impact with the water can knock them unconscious. So insist on life jackets whenever boating or doing water sports. Be sure that the safety strap which goes between a child’s legs is fastened as well, because otherwise, it’s possible for a spill at high speeds to rip the life-jacket right off them like a parent pulling a shirt off.

Moreover, just as it is with seatbelt use, the best way to ensure kids wear their life jacket is to wear yours. “We have done research that indicates children whose parents wear life jackets around water are more likely to wear one themselves,” says Jen Medearis Costello of the National SAFE KIDS campaign. “Therefore, we recommend that parents not only actively supervise their children around water, but also demonstrate safe behavior including wearing life jackets.”

Family Boating Safety Rules:

1. Remember that drinking and boating is as dangerous as drinking and driving. We’ve covered several deaths of children who have been killed due to either gross adult negligence as a result of intoxication, or boating accidents caused by drinking and driving. So stay sober on the water, and do not let your kids get into a boat with someone who is intoxicated.

2. Children who can’t swim should wear a life-jacket all the time when on a boat. Children who are good swimmers can take it off when the boat is stopped, but should dawn a life-jacket whenever it gets moving again.

3. Seat children between adults, especially on powerboats, so that they are less likely to fall out. This way, there is someone to grab on to them and keep them from climbing into precarious positions that would lead to a tumble.

Water Safety printable book
A Fun and entertaining children’s book that teaches kids some basic principles on water safety. Recommended for kids ages 4-10.

Boating Safety Resources for Kids:

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