Boating Safety: Staying Safe on the NC Waterways

Author: Ashley Thornton

Boating is a great activity that most anyone can enjoy. There are so many things to do while on the water from water sports to fishing or just going for a ride. Follow these tips to make sure everyone stays safe while enjoying the fun. 

Life jackets save lives

Wearing a life jacket is one of the easiest things you can do to make sure you and all riders are safe. Each person on the vessel - even the best swimmers - need to wear a life jacket. Be sure life jackets are proper fitted for each person’s size and weight and are U.S. Coast Guard approved. Always encourage passengers to wear their life jackets while aboard. The U.S. Coast Guard reports that in 2018, 76% of boating deaths were due to drowning and 84% of victims were not wearing a life jacket.1 

Stay up to date and educate 

Many boating safety courses are offered online and in person. Education helps to prevent accidents. In North Carolina, any person that is born after January 1, 1988, must complete a National Association of State Boating Law Administrators approved boating education course before they operate a boat with a greater horsepower than 10 on a public waterway. Staying up to date and educating yourself even after you complete your boating education course is extremely important as rules are everchanging. 

Don’t drink and drive

Whether on the road or on the water, the same rules apply regarding driving and alcohol consumption; never consume alcohol while driving a car OR a boat. It’s not only very dangerous but also illegal in all 50 states. 

In 2018, the NC Wildlife Resources Commission reported 28 alcohol-related boating accidents, where 97 individuals were injured and multiple fatalities were reported.2 The report also shows that throughout the year a majority of boating accidents occured from May through August. 

In order to reduce alcohol-related accidents on the state’s roadways and waterways, the NC Wildlife Resources Commission and the NC State Highway Patrol hold multiple campaigns a year, with the first being the “On the Road, On the Water, Don’t Drink and Drive” campaign3 over Memorial Day weekend. During these campaigns, enforcement officers conduct sobriety checkpoints and promote public awareness to deter impaired operation of vehicles and vessels. During this year's Memorial Day weekend campaign, hundreds of citations were delivered, 27 boaters were found to be driving under the influence4 and two motorists were arrested for impaired driving.5

Prepare before you go

Have a set plan before you go. Weather and nautical conditions are constantly changing and storms can pop up quickly. Check the forecast before you leave and have a plan in case you are caught in a storm. Stay up to date and prepared in case of inclement weather while on the water. 

Also, check that all equipment is working properly before departure. You can get a free equipment check at your local U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary or U.S. Power Squadron. 

There are many ways to have fun on the water this summer and year-round. For additional safety tips and information, visit the NC Wildlife Resource Commission's boating safety page or download the U.S. Coast Guard Boating Safety app so you can stay up to date!  



1. 2018 Recreational Boating Statistics

2. 2018 Boating Accidents and Fatalities Report 

3. On the Road, On the Water Campaign

4. NC Wildlife Resources Facebook page

5. NC State Highway Patrol Facebook page


Related Topics: