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Boating Accidents

"Waterproofing" Your Kids

Boat Safety Tips:

With more than 12,000 lakes and 25,000 miles of streams and rivers, boating is one of the most popular summer recreation activities in Minnesota. In fact, there are more than 700,000 watercraft registered with the Minnesota department of Natural Resources.

Accidents are bound to happen with so many boats cruising lakes and rivers in Minnesota. In 2011, 70 percent of all fatal boating accident victims  drowned, and of those who drowned, 84 percent were not wearing a life jacket.

Don't let your summertime fun turn fatal. Brush up on the following boat safety tips before you and your family hop on board.

Water Hazards

Most boating fatalities occur in small, open boats with outboard motors (40 hp or less) or in non-motorized canoes. The most common causes of fatalities fall into three categories:

  • Capsizing (tipping over) commonly caused by overloading or improperly distributing weight or gear and passengers on board, boating in bad weather, and by making sharp, high speed turns.
  • Falling overboard - Usually happens when passengers are riding or standing on the gunwale (the upper edge of the boat's side) or when a person loses their balance while fishing or starting the motor.
  • Swamping - This happens when the boat takes in water over the side or slows down too quickly, allowing the trailing wake to wash overboard.


Non-fatal boat accidents normally involve higher speed craft (40 hp or greater) and result in personal injury and property damage. The most common incidents are collisions between two boats or one boat and a fixed object and are usually caused by disobeying watercraft laws or operator inattention.

Can I Drive?

Boating AccidentsBefore you give in to your child's plea to take a turn at the wheel, make sure they are old enough to legally operate the boat.

Under 12 years old
No restrictions on 25 hp or less watercraft. When operating a boat with 25-75 hp, there must be a 21-year-old adult on board and within reach of the controls. Watercraft over 75 hp cannot be legally operated by someone under the age of 12.

Ages 12-17
No Restrictions on 25 hp or less watercraft. For watercraft more than 25 hp, the child must have either a watercraft operator's permit or a 21-year-old adult on board and within reach of the controls.

Preserving your child's life

According to the United States Coast Guard, nearly 85 percent of all boating-related deaths could be prevented if boaters wore life jackets. Everyone, especially children should wear a life jacket whenever out on the water.

Since 2006, children under 10 are required to wear a life jacket while boating. Life jackets are designed to keep a person's head above water and in a proper breathing position. But for the life jacket to work, it must be properly fitted and used as instructed by the manufacturer.

Follow these tips when choosing a life jacket for you child:

  • Many manufacturers specific a chest size so measure your child around the chest and under the arms before being fitted.
  • Make sure the life jacket fastens snugly. The jacket should not give more than 3 inches when lifted at the shoulders. If it does, it is too big!
  • If the life jacket has crotch straps, use them! They are designed to keep the device correctly in place.
  • Select bright colors for higher visibility.
  • Help children test life jackets in shallow water until they feel comfortable. Consider a collared life jacket for children who fear water.
  • Even if your child is wearing a life jacket, they should never be left alone near the water.
  • Children learn best by example. Parents should always wear life jackets on board watercraft.