Boating with friends and family can be a great way to enjoy the summer months, but it can also pose a safety risk for your children. Let’s face it. You may have to put up with a little whining and […]
" />

Be Careful Boating and Around Open Water

by Jill Taylor on June 6, 2014

in Safety

safetyBoating with friends and family can be a great way to enjoy the summer months, but it can also pose a safety risk for your children.

Let’s face it. You may have to put up with a little whining and resistance if kids complain about wearing a life jacket. It’s vital to keeping them safe near the water. And, it’s the law for children under 13 years of age.

“Life jackets are the single most important piece of safety equipment around water,” says Susan Burchfield, Safe Kids Mid-Texas coalition coordinator.

Wear a Life Jacket

When it comes to children wearing a life jacket, the U.S. Coast Guard reports that over 80 percent of the individuals who drown while boating are not wearing life jackets.

“Don’t ever be fooled that you [or your child] can swim so well that you don’t need one,” says Burchfield.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re out near open water:

  • Make sure your life vest fits properly.

The life jacket or personal flotation device (PFD) must fit snugly. Burchfield suggests a simple way to make sure you have the right fit. Have the kids made a “touchdown” signal by raising both arms straight up. She says if the life jacket hits a child’s chin or ears, it may be too big or the straps may be too loose. Texas Parks and Wildlife offers more helpful information on the best fit and type of flotation device.

  • Life vests are not floaties.

If you’re out in open water, don’t rely on swimming aides like water wings or pool noodles. Burchfield says they may be fun but cannot replace a life vest.

  • Keep babies safe.

“Babies should not travel on a boat until they are at the appropriate weight to wear an approved PFD,” says Burchfield.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard this is when your baby weighs at least 18 pounds. The average weight baby reaches 18 pounds at about 7 months for boys and 9 months for girls. Once they are wearing safety gear, hold your baby while you also wear a life jacket. Car seats are not a good option because if the boat should capsize, the car seat will sink.

  •  Remember, it’s the law.

“Any time children (age 13 or below) are around open water, they must be wearing an approved life preserver,” says Burchfield. “If they are at the water’s edge, on the dock, or on a boat – the life vest is the law.”

  • Don’t risk it.

There is no guarantee that anyone can swim well enough to rescue themselves. Don’t risk it – wear a life preserver. Be a good example to your children by wearing a life vest yourself. It will keep you afloat until help can arrive.

Other Tips to Avoid Drowning Near Open Water

“Sadly, as the weather warms the number of children and adults who are injured in and around the water will grow,” says Burchfield. “2014 has already had its first victims.”

On average, two children die every day from drowning. Children ages 1 to 4 years most often drown in residential swimming pools, while children age 15 and over most often drown in natural water settings like lakes, rivers or the ocean. According to the CDC, drowning is responsible for more deaths among children ages 1 to 4 than any other cause except birth defects.


  1. Children must be supervised at all times while around water. Designate one adult to be the official water watcher. Most drowning in lakes or pools occur at unguarded sites. It may seem strict, but children can slip silently under the water and drown. The “watcher” must pay 100% attention to the kids. Burchfield says this means “no cell phones, no distractions.”
  1. Everyone should swim with a buddy.
  1. Learn CPR. Know how to safely rescue someone from the water.
  1. Learn to swim. If you’re anxious to get your child in swimming lessons, be aware that the Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend swimming classes as the primary means of drowning prevention for children younger than age 4.
  1. Don’t dive. It’s good to learn to walk into water rather than diving. Burchfield says, “Feet first – first time” allows you to check the water out and be aware of debris that can be hiding under murky water. Broken bottles, drop offs, or sudden changes in water depths all pose a risk. Drought conditions mean that water levels change rapidly. Remember, what was safe to swim in yesterday may not be today.

Click here for more info about Safe Kids Mid-Texas and ways to stay safe this summer.

Previous post:

Next post: