Learning Center

Boating Safety Tips

woman wearing life vest riding in a boat

10 ideas for smooth sailing

Whether you prefer sailboats or speedboats, spending time on the water can be a fun, relaxing way to pass the day. Just make sure proper safety gear and training are on board for the ride.

The U.S. Coast Guard reports 70 percent of boating accidents are caused by operator error. Reduce your risk the next time you set sail by setting a course for safety.

  1. Wear a life jacket
    The U.S. Coast Guard estimates that life jackets could have saved the lives of more than 80 percent of boating fatality victims.

  2. Watch the weather forecast
    Before departure, check local weather conditions. When boating, be mindful of the forecast and bring a radio. Get off the water if bad weather is approaching.

  3. Keep an emergency kit on board
    Keep maps, flares, a fire extinguisher, a first-aid kit and other emergency supplies in a floating pouch.

  4. Steer safely
    Always boat at safe speeds, especially in crowded areas. Steer clear of large boats that may be slow to stop or turn. Be aware of buoys and other navigational aids that have been placed to ensure your safety.

  5. Bring a first mate
    A primary navigator could become injured or incapacitated, so it’s important to have at least one other person on board who is familiar with the boat’s handling and operations.

  6. Share your float plan
    Tell someone where you’re going and how long you’ll be gone. Provide that person with the names of all passengers, your boat type, all registration information and your trip itinerary.

  7. Don’t drink and boat
    Drugs and alcohol do not mix with boating. Sun, glare, wind, noise and vibration can exaggerate the effects of alcohol.

  8. Know how to swim
    Having swimming skills could save your life if you go overboard. The American Red Cross, the YMCA and other organizations offer swimming lessons for people of all ages and skill levels.

  9. Complete a boating course
    Some states require you to complete a boating safety course. Regardless of your state’s requirements, it’s important to be educated, aware and prepared for every boating circumstance that might arise.

  10. Obtain a vessel safety check
    The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and U. S.Power Squadrons offer free boat examinations to verify the presence and condition of safety equipment required by state and federal regulations. To find an examination location near you, visit the Vessel Safety Check Examiners Database.

Of course, one more way boaters stay protected is through proper insurance coverage. Learn more about American Family's insurance options for boat owners.


Additional boating safety resources

For more information about boat safety, education and instruction, visit these sites:



When you are stranded...

Let American Family Emergency Road Service get you going again.

Hitch A Ride