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Beach season is almost here, yet many Americans could be unprepared to take to the water. Unsafe behavior while boating, using a personal watercraft, or swimming can lead to serious injury and even death. In order to prevent tragedy from occurring during these recreational water activities, it is crucial that everyone in the family, young and old, knows how to stay safe around the water.

When it comes to using a boat or a personal watercraft, like a jet ski, more than 90% of all accidents are due to operator error, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. These tragedies affect thousands each year. In 2009 alone, 736 Americans died in boating accidents, and another 3,358 were injured while aboard watercrafts. Nine out of 10 of those who drowned in such accidents were not wearing life jackets at the time of the incidents, making such accidents easily preventable.

Even swimming in lakes, oceans, and other bodies of water can be dangerous. Between 2005 and 2009, an average of 3,533 fatal unintentional drownings unrelated to boating occurred in the United States during each year, working out to almost 10 deaths per day. Additionally, more than 100 people die each year due to the rip currents on U.S. beaches. Attention to safety precautions could save a life.

Around 80% of those who die from drowning — due to any cause — are male, and one in five, or 20% of those who die from drowning, are children age 14 or younger. While there isn’t a clear-cut reason for why these groups are so affected, there may share common causes for accidents. Young children may not yet know how to swim or behave safely on boats, which can lead to tragedy. As for adults, alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents, so men and women need to be careful when boating.

Fortunately, these accidents are easily preventable, and all adults can play an important role in keeping themselves and their family members safe. Wearing a lifevest while boating or using a watercraft is essential even for those with plenty of experience out on the water. Learning how to swim is also key in preventing drowning. Even young children between one and four years old can taking swimming lessons to help reduce the risk of drowning.

Boat rental operators have a 25% higher risk of getting into an accident than those in the general boating population. Therefore, having a thorough understanding of how to use a watercraft of any sort is crucial before going out on the water. Finally, boaters should avoid alcohol when operating any kind of watercraft. This will help ensure that they and their passengers on board stay safe while enjoying the water.

The summer boating season is a time for fun, but caution is also necessary. Following these safety guidelines can ensure that watercraft activities and swimming stay enjoyable and safe for everyone.

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