Home' SA Waters : SA Waters Summer 15 16 Contents 4 Issue No. 65 -- Summer 2015/16
Motorised boating safety starts with you
Boat operators who consider themselves
good swimmers can experience difficulty if
they fall into water unexpectedly, especially if
the water is cold.
The ability to swim in warm water does not necessarily indicate
how well a person might survive in cold water, and while increased
swimming ability is a way of reducing recreational boating related
drownings, it's not the only way.
Wearing a Personal Flotation Device (PFDs) can help save your
There are many factors that contribute to a boating fatality;
however the most consistent and highest risk factor is likely to be
that a flotation device was not used. Sadly some drowning victims
are recorded as having PFDs on board their vessels but they were
not wearing them at the time of incident. Or they had a PFD on but
it wasn't the correct size or worn in the correct way.
South Australian legislation requires motorised vessels to carry an
appropriate PFD (appropriate in terms of size and serviceability)
for every person on board the vessel but it's up to individuals as to
whether they wear one.
The majority of recreational boating incidents stem from the vessel
capsizing or the victim falling overboard. Such incidents typically
occur with little or no warning. A boating accident can occur
suddenly, often within close proximity of land or assistance, and
the whole tragic event from start to finish can typically be over in
a matter of minutes. There is little or no opportunity to don a PFD,
particularly if they are stowed in a cabin or enclosed space. The
harsh truth is, very few people taken by surprise can remain afloat
for too long without a PFD.
The often heard notion that a person who is not already wearing a
PFD when he or she falls into the water can locate and put one on
in the water is flawed. A significant number of boating incidents
occur in poor weather, challenging wind or wave conditions, and
darkness or dim light -- conditions that could impede a person's
ability to locate and put on a PFD while staying afloat.
Wearing a PFD is a critical way to enhance chances of survival,
rescue and recovery.
Weather and Boating Conditions
Wind, wave and light conditions can also contribute to the likelihood
of drowning. They affect the operator's ability to manoeuvre the
vessel or the stability of the vessel and can increase the potential
for capsizing or falling overboard. Adverse conditions can also
affect a person's ability to stay afloat, locate and don flotation
devices, and their ability to swim or assist in their own rescue.
Wearing a PFD in these situations is sure to enhance your chances
Many factors make a small amount of alcohol more dangerous
when operating a vessel than when operating a motor vehicle.
Research indicates that due to factors associated with the marine
environment, such as motion, vibration, engine noise, sun, wind,
and water spray, it takes much less alcohol to make a person
impaired on the water than on the road.
Alcohol consumption can impair a person's judgement, the ability
to focus and process information, reaction time and balance, all of
which can increase the likelihood of falling overboard and decrease
the chance of self rescue. Alcohol also reduces the body's ability to
insulate itself against the cold, causing the effects of hypothermia
to set in more quickly. Again, wearing a PFD may improve your
chances of survival.
Care of passengers
As the boat operator, you're the skipper and you have a responsibility
to your passengers at all times. Lead by example and wear a PFD
and encourage all your passengers to do the same, especially any
children or weak swimmers on board. Motorised boating safety
starts with you. Make sure you and your passengers stay in your
boat and out of the water, but if the unthinkable happens, be
prepared and wear a PFD. It may save your life.
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