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Boating Safety Essentials

Colorado offers a variety of boating experiences, from lazy lakes to raging rivers. Unfortunately, there are many boating accidents in the state every year, some of them fatal.

Valley View Hospital is reminding residents and vacationers of basic boating safety rules that can help keep you and your family safe while boating. About 70 percent of boating-related fatalities occur when a boater falls overboard or the boat capsizes. Either of these life-threatening incidents can occur during simple activities such as moving around the boat or during a sudden shift in balance. Consider these safety tips when you are afloat:

ALWAYS wear a life preserver

This is the first and most important rule of boating. By law, a boat must have a personal flotation device for every person on board. However, it is your responsibility to see that every person wears a life jacket at all times.

While it may be tempting to take off your life jacket or that of your child for comfort or sunning, doing so could be a deadly mistake. A person, especially a child, can fall overboard and drown very quickly, sometimes undetected.It is essential that life jackets be worn and adjusted correctly. Make sure that you know the correct way to put on and fit each life jacket you or your family members are wearing.

Stay sober

About half of all boating accidents involve alcohol. Remember that is just as dangerous to drive drunk in a boat as it is in a car. It is extremely dangerous to equate a day on the water with a day of drinking beer.

Check the boat's capacity before loading passengers

Overloading may cause an accident. Don't attempt to step aboard a small boat while you are carrying heavy or bulky items. Instead, hand the gear to someone already seated in the boat.

Watch out for hazards

Head for shore at the first sign of lightning. Boat slowly on unfamiliar bodies of water and take care to avoid submerged trees of stumps that can capsize the boat.

Stay near your boat

If you fall overboard,stay near your boat. Do not try to swim for shore. It could be much farther than it looks. If someone else falls into the water, toss them a flotation device. Haul the victim aboard, being careful not to fall overboard yourself.

About river rafting

The rivers in Colorado often run very high. In any season, they are to be approached with careful respect. While river rafting is a wonderful source of summer recreation, it is essential to become acquainted with the basic techniques necessary to survive a spill in strong currents and very cold water.

Commercial river rafting companies are required by law to instruct their clients in all aspects of safety before they ride the river. River guides hold orientation sessions on safety procedures for swimming through rapids and getting back into the vessel, avoiding rocks and debris and dealing with a variety of possible hazards.

This knowledge is vital to a safe river trip. Be sure you are trained in the specifics of these techniques before you attempt a river trip and that you are aware of the conditions of weather, terrain and water level on the river you plan to navigate.

By paying attention to water and boat safety, you can help to prevent a tragedy. Your boating experience can instead be a delightful year-round memory.

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