We’re lucky to be surrounded by quite a few bodies of water here in the beautiful state of Washington. With the hot summer months in full swing in the Pacific Northwest, families will be taking advantage of the good weather to participate in recreational water sports. From jet skiing to boating, there are many water sport recreational activities for adventure seekers and beach bums alike.
A day out on the water can quickly turn into a tragedy. Unfortunately, accidents and injuries can happen to anyone, even when all the necessary safety precautions are taken.
According to the Department of Health, drowning is the leading cause of death for children under four years old. Every year, nearly 400 children die due to drowning-related incidents. The vast majority of these accidents could have been easily prevented if the supervising adults had exercised due diligence and basic safety protocols.
You should always monitor your child when they are swimming, inner tubing, or wake/skim boarding, or engaging in other similar activities. Do not let them swim in cloudy or murky water in pools, as it will inhibit you or the lifeguard’s ability to see them. However, in bodies of open bodies of water, turbid water is the norm. The ocean can have deadly rip currents which are only visible to the trained eye. If your child gets caught in one, there is a good chance they could drown before you realize it.
This is why children and weak swimmers should always wear life jackets whenever they are around water. This includes when engaging in a water sport, or even hanging by the swimming pool. At my house, which is on the Puget Sound, we keep a whole locker of life jackets just in case. It’s our family policy that all kids must wear life jackets – even my oldest daughter and her friends who are on swim team.
Swim lessons for you and/or your child is another beneficial measure to consider, even if your family doesn’t venture out into the water very often.
Personal motorized watercrafts, such as jet skis, are powerful vehicles that can cause serious injury if not operated properly. While operator error is a common cause of jet ski injuries, the negligence of others and defective equipment can also cause injuries. Non-motorized watercrafts, such as pedal boats and kayaks, can be equally as dangerous in certain situations.
To prevent motorized and non-motorized watercraft injuries, always equip yourself with safety gear. Poor maintenance can lead to equipment failure, so be sure to check that your watercraft is working properly. Like all sports, it’s important to understand your limit and skill level. Take it slow and step up the intensity as you are ready.
Washington State has more registered boats than almost any other state in the nation. In 2010, the U.S. Coast Guard reported more than 3,474 boating injuries alone. Safe boating starts before you launch your boat into the water. If you haven’t used it for several months, you should perform a thorough, routine safety inspection before sailing off. Checking the engine and motor to ensure proper fluid levels is critical to preventing engine failure while out on the water.
Make sure your boat has all the U.S. Coast Guard required safety equipment, including life vests. If you plan on having your family on board, make sure you have a life vest that will fit each family member. A VHF safety radio and first aid kid can mean the difference between life and death. The weather in Washington State can change at the drop of a dime and you might find yourself caught out on the water in a thunderstorm or deep fog.
As an avid recreational boater, I am well aware of the dangers that can arise while out on the water. If you or a loved one has suffered an injury due to someone else’s negligence, manufacturing defect, or other causes, don’t hesitate to contact me.
Boat operators, boat manufacturers, tour operators, boat mechanics or water sports instructors are among the many individuals and companies who could potentially liable if you get hurt while doing marine activities. My team and I have decades of combined experience helping people who suffered from recreational water injuries, such as drownings and boating accidents.