Summer is officially underway, and so is boating season.
Thousands of families and friends will climb aboard boats, crawl into canoes and kayaks or strap on water skis this weekend and throughout the summer.
There will be lots of fun and enjoyment on the state’s waterways throughout the summer, but it’s important to review safety information before embarking on any boating outing to help ensure it does not result in tragedy.
An annual boating accident analysis, prepared by the state Fish and Boat Commission, provides insight into the kinds of situations that resulted in boating fatalities.
The report notes that there were 61 reported accidents that resulted in 14 fatalities in Pennsylvania last year. The most common form of boating accident was capsizing, 17 incidents, followed by falls overboard, 12, and collisions with other vessels, 10.
Other causes of accidents were: ejection from the boat, fires or explosion, grounding or sinking, skier mishaps, flooding of the boat, falls aboard the boat, striking submerged objects, and incidents involving a waterway dam.
A total of 14 people lost their lives in Pennsylvania boating accidents during 2018, according to the report. Eleven of the 14 victims (78.5 percent) were not wearing a life jacket at the time of the fatal accident and eight of the 14 victims (57 percent) were not wearing a life jacket, although they did have them available aboard the boat.
Nine of the fatalities occurred on rivers and five were on lakes. Seven people died in accidents involving motorboats and an equal number died on paddlecraft. Seven people died after falling overboard and three were victims of capsizing.
There were two accidents involving alcohol, resulting in the deaths of three people.
Pennsylvania law requires all children 12 years or younger to wear a life jacket at all times on any boat 20 feet in length or less, and on all canoes and kayaks.
Water skiers or anyone else being towed behind a boat, all personal watercraft operators and passengers and all sailboarders or windsurfers are required to wear life jackets.
All boats must have an approved life jacket on board for each person on the boat and all boats 16 feet or longer must have a throwable device that can be tossed to anyone who falls into the water.
A final stat is certainly one to remember. Approximately 80 percent of all boating deaths could have been prevented if the victims had been wearing a life jacket.
Wearing a life jacket, even while just cruising aboard a motorboat, is always a good idea.
“Boating safety is everyone’s responsibility,” the state Fish and Boat Commission writes. “Know before you go.”
For much more information on boating safety, see the Commission’s website at: www.fishandboat.com.
NOTE: Opinions expressed in The Daily Item’s editorials are the consensus of the publisher and top newsroom executives. Today’s was written by Digital Editor Dave Hilliard.