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Safe Kids & Safe Boating

May 23, 2011

Life Jackets and Active Supervision Are Essential To Boating Safety

National Safe Boating Week is May 21-27

Whether it’s during vacation or part of an ordinary day, boating can be fun for the entire family – as long as everyone remains safe. In 2009, 18 children under thirteen years of age lost their lives to boating, and 50% of the children died from drowning.

“On a boat, everyone should wear a life jacket at all times,” says Rich McCaffery, a Community Educator with Bassett Healthcare Network and Safe Kids of Otsego County.. “Look for a life jacket approved by the U.S. Coast Guard. ‘Water wings’ and other inflatable swimming aids such as inner tubes do not prevent drowning.”

Safe Kids of Otsego County recommends that children ages 14 and under wear life jackets not only on boats, but near open bodies of water or when participating in water sports.In New York State you must hold a safety certificate if:

You operate a personal watercraft and are at least 14 years of age. Until 2009 operators age 10-13 can still operate with restrictions. Click on Navigation Law updates for complete information.
You wish to operate a motorboat (other than a personal watercraft) and you are at least 10 years old and less than 18 years old.
If you are less than 10 years old you may operate a motorboat (non-PWC) only if someone over 18 is on board with you. Anyone may operate a personal watercraft if someone at least 18 years old is riding on the craft and they hold a safety certificate.

Safe Kids urges everyone to wear life jackets on boats or other watercraft. as Remember, “ Children will pick up and embrace adult safety habits,” says McCaffery. According to a 2005 study by Safe Kids Worldwide, children are much more likely to practice safe habits when they witness similar behavior by parents and caregivers.

Safe Kids also reminds parents and caregivers:

Ÿ Always wear life jackets when in or around open bodies of water and on boats. Make sure the life jacket fits snugly. Have the child make a “touchdown” signal — if the life jacket hits the child’s chin or ears, the life jacket may be too big or the straps are too loose.

Ÿ Enroll your kids in swimming lessons taught by a certified instructor, but don’t assume swimming lessons or life jackets make your child “drownproof.” These precautions are important, but they’re no substitute for constant and active adult supervision.

Ÿ Don’t let kids operate or ride on personal watercraft (such as jet skis).

Ÿ Never drink alcoholic beverages while boating — a large portion of boating accidents that occur each year involve alcohol consumption by both boat operators and passengers.

Ÿ Nobody should swim near a dock or marina with electrical hookups or lighting — swimmers can be electrocuted in the water and drown.

Ÿ Make sure the boat operator has passed a boating safety course approved by the Coast Guard before letting your child and your family ride in the boat.Ÿ

When there are several adults present and children are swimming, use the Water Watcher card strategy, which designates an adult as the Water Watcher for a designated amount of time (e.g. 15-minute periods) to prevent lapses in supervision. To download a Water Watcher card, visit

Ÿ Install a carbon monoxide detector on your motorboat to alert you to dangerous levels of exhaust fumes.

Ÿ Learn infant and child CPR. In less than two hours, you can learn effective interventions that can give a fighting chance to a child who has fallen into water and become unconscious. Local hospitals, fire departments and recreation departments offer CPR training.

National Safe Boating Week is an annual educational campaign, coordinated by the National Safe Boating Council (, running the week prior to Memorial Day.

There are currently four courses scheduled in Unadilla during June, contact John Grenchenko at 607-563-7041. For additional courses and other NYS requirements visit

For more information about Summer Safety call Safe Kids of Otsego County at richard.mccaffery or visit

Safe Kids of Otsego County works to prevent unintentional childhood injury, the leading cause of death and disability to children ages 1 to 14 and is a member of Safe Kids Worldwide, a global network of organizations dedicated to preventing unintentional injury. Safe Kids of Otsego County is led by Bassett Healthcare Network.

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