Boating Tips to Put Safety First


As Memorial Day Weekend kicks off the summer, many will be headed to the lakes. It is important to know your state’s boating laws before heading out as many will be stepping up enforcement on these laws on the water to improve safety and prevent injuries.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note that in 2008, 3,330 people were injured in boating incidents. More than 700 resulted in death. Of those who drowned, 9 out of 10 were not wearing life jackets. Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating incidents.

In Arkansas, Rachel's Law requires a boat operator be 16 years old to operate a boat alone. Rachel's Law came to be from the tragic death of Rachel Allison Rutherford who died at the age of 15 from injuries in a personal watercraft accident on Lake Hamilton on March 29, 2007. It was passed into law March 2009 advocating personal watercraft safety.


You can review Arkansas watercraft safety laws in the Arkansas Game and Fish Handbook of Boating Laws and Responsibility. It is important to have your registration information available, not overload your boat with passengers, have required safety equipment, not operate the boat under the influence, and reporting any accidents.

Tips from the US Coast Guard to put safety first:

  1. Wear it. There should be a properly fitted life jackets for each person in the boat. Children under 12 must (by law in Arkansas) have theirs on at all times. Properly fitted life jackets can prevent drownings and should be worn by everyone on any boat, at all times.
  2. Don't Drink. Alcohol use affects judgment, vision, balance, and coordination. Reports suggest that alcohol was a contributing factor in about one in five boating fatalities.
  3. Take a Course. People operating boats can help keep their passengers safe. Boating education courses teach the regulatory and statutory rules ("Rules of the Road") for safe operation and navigation of recreational boats.
  4. Get a Vessel Safety Check. The Vessel Safety Check (VSC) is a free public service provided by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and U.S. Power Squadron volunteer organizations. For more information on the VSC Program, visit their web site:
  5. Know about carbon monoxide (CO). All internal combustion engines, such as boat engines and onboard motor generators, emit CO, an odorless, colorless, poisonous gas. In the early stages, the symptoms of CO poisoning are similar to seasickness, but CO can kill in a matter of minutes. To avoid CO poisoning, be aware of the risk, ensure sufficient ventilation, properly install and maintain equipment, and use CO detectors, especially in living and sleeping areas. See "Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning on Your Boat."

In Arkansas, the range of fines boaters can face for violating state boating laws is $100 to $1,000 plus court costs.

Arkansas Game and Fish
Fox16 News
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention