Top 10 Safety Tips for Boaters and Swimmers in Virginia
Recent drownings on the water in Virginia Beach and Richmond have once again highlighted the need for swimmers and boaters to take care on rivers and in the sea during the hot summer months.
As the temperatures soar, people flock to the waterways of Hampton Roads to have fun. Sadly, some of them never make it home again.
Two swimmers – a man and a 12-year-old boy – died in separate incidents in Virginia Beach over the Fourth of July weekend.
Recent Drownings in Virginia Beach
The 12-year-old boy was vacationing in Virginia Beach when he went missing on the Chesapeake Bay beach. Tragically, emergency crews later recovered his body. A 44-year-old man also drowned on the beach close to the Lesner Bridge on the same day. The drownings occurred in an area without lifeguards. In Virginia Beach, lifeguards work at the Oceanfront resort area, Croatan, and the North End while EMS lifeguards patrol Sandbridge Beaches, News Channel 3 reported.
Some of Virginia’s rivers are also proving to be deadly this summer. A 17-year-old student died in Chesterfield County while tubing on the James River earlier this month. Media reports suggested two teens were in an inflatable being pulled by a boat when they fell into the water. The boat operators turned around, creating a wave. The 17-year-old was struck by the boat’s propeller and killed.
Two women drowned on the James River in Richmond on Memorial Day when they went over a low-head dam. The river was high at the time, raising media questions about whether the City of Richmond was enforcing a permit system that it still cites on its website.
Our thoughts are with the families of the victims of the latest tragedies. Although rivers, lakes, and the bay are fun places to cool off, it’s vital to treat the water with respect. Swimmers and boaters can quickly get into trouble when things go wrong. Although no two boating or swimming accidents are the same, these simple tips can help you stay safe this summer.
Safety Tips for Boaters and Swimmers in Virginia
1. Always wear a life jacket.
The few minutes between falling into the water and being rescued can be the difference between life and death. If you are on any vessel, including a canoe or a kayak, always wear a personal flotation device Make sure to buy Coast Guard approved life jackets. Under Virginia law, any vessel for hire or even vessels not for hire over 40 feet long must carry at least one life vest per passenger.
2. Have a float plan.
Tell other people where you are going before you set out. Tell them when you will return. Boaters embarking on a longer cruise should leave a written float plan at the marina, yacht club, or with a friend. It should include details including the type of boat, who is on board, what safety equipment you are carrying, and when you intend to return.
3. Don’t drink alcohol.
Although it’s tempting to drink alcohol in the sun, people piloting boats are subject to the same rules as drivers. Far too many tragedies on the water are caused by drunken boaters. Designate at least one member of your party as the pilot and make sure they do not drink alcohol or take drugs.
4. Use a beacon.
An emergency positioning beacon, known as an E-PERB can be a lifesaver. These devices can be carried on the boat or attached to a life jacket. They emit a signal that tells rescuers where boaters are. Beacons must be registered in advance.
5. Dress for the water.
Even on sweltering days, the waters off Hampton Roads can be cold. Hypothermia sets in quickly. Wear warm, multi-layered clothing with good hand and feet protection. Water skiers and paddleboarders who are frequently immersed should wear wet suits.
6. Perform a safety check.
Always conduct a safety check before taking a boat out on the water. Make sure you have enough gas and check oil and transmission fluid levels. Make sure you have an up-to-date operator’s certificate or license and life jackets are on board. Larger vessels should have a first aid kit, a fire extinguisher, boat lights, extra batteries, cell phones, and flares.
7. Check the weather forecast.
Storms frequently appear during the summer months in Hampton Roads, particularly in the afternoon. Ensure you check the weather forecast before setting out. Head back to land as soon as possible if you see darkening skies, lightning, sudden wind shifts, or choppy water. Avoid paddling or floating on rivers after high rainfall or flooding.
8. Swim near lifeguards.
Many of Hampton Roads’ beaches have lifeguards. Aim to swim in these areas, particularly if you are an inexperienced swimmer.
9. Be aware of red flags.
Red flags on the beach denote rough water or dangerous riptides. Never swim when red flags are flying on the beach.
10. Do not swim in marinas.
Swimming near boats can be extremely dangerous. Propellers can kill or main swimmers while electrical currents from boats in marinas can electrocute people in the water.
Contact a Virginia Beach Boating Accident Lawyer for More Info
We hope you have a safe and enjoyable vacation in Hampton Roads. Please follow all safety guidance to avoid tragic accidents. If you or a family member is hurt due to the fault of another person on the water, please call our Virginia Beach boating accident lawyers.