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Boat safety precautions to take before you enter the water

Proper boat safety starts with these simple safety precautions.

Man on dock talking to boaters in life vests

Whether you're a new boat owner or an experienced skipper heading out for the first time this season, taking the proper safety precautions is the first step in enjoying your time on the water. Here are a few prelaunch safety measures that can help make your outings as relaxing as possible.

Take a boat safety course

You wouldn't get behind the wheel of a car without a driver's education, so why would you get behind the wheel of a boat without proper instruction? A boat safety course will teach basic marine operation, navigation, and safety, as well as federal and state boating regulations.

Still need convincing? The reasons for taking a boat safety course are as simple as 1-2-3 (and 4).

  1. It's the law. More than 40 states now require operators to take an approved boating safety course as part of their boat licensing or safety certification process.
  2. It's easy. Taking a boating safety course is convenient. Approved courses are offered throughout the country, and many are even available online.
  3. It's effective. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, only 14% of accidental boating deaths in 2017 occurred on boats where the operator had received nationally approved boating safety instruction. Even if your state doesn't require boater education, the safety benefits are clear.
  4. It's worth the investment. Insurance discounts may be available for approved boating safety classes.

Get your boat checked

Once you've completed a boating safety course, make sure your boat is as seaworthy as you are by scheduling a U.S. Coast Guard Vessel Safety Check. This courtesy evaluation is a free, fast, and convenient way to check your boat's compliance with state and federal boating equipment regulations.  And don’t forget to inspect your boat trailer as well.

Pack the right gear on your boat

You can't always prevent emergencies on the water, but you can make sure you're equipped to deal with them effectively. The U.S. Coast Guard suggests you have the following items on your boat to help you prepare for common occurrences, such as severe weather, accidents or mechanical breakdown:

  • Radio equipment,
  • Charts of the local area and a compass,
  • Anchor and extra line,
  • Tool kit for repairs,
  • Paddles,
  • Bailer or bilge pump,
  • First-aid kit,
  • Food and water,
  • Additional clothing, such as warm clothes, a hat, and foul weather gear, and
  • Personal items (sunscreen, medicines, sunglasses).

Get boat insurance

Your home, your car, and your boat are all investments worth protecting, and that means buying boat insurance. Know your boat insurance options before you get in the water. Reviewing the kinds of coverage you may receive could help identify some potential discounts for safe boaters.

State Farm® (including State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company and its subsidiaries and affiliates) is not responsible for, and does not endorse or approve, either implicitly or explicitly, the content of any third party sites hyperlinked from this page. State Farm has no discretion to alter, update, or control the content on the hyperlinked, third party site. Access to third party sites is at the user's own risk, is being provided for informational purposes only and is not a solicitation to buy or sell any of the products which may be referenced on such third party sites.

The information in this article was obtained from various sources not associated with State Farm®. While we believe it to be reliable and accurate, we do not warrant the accuracy or reliability of the information. These suggestions are not a complete list of every loss control measure. The information is not intended to replace manuals or instructions provided by the manufacturer or the advice of a qualified professional. Nor is it intended to effect coverage under our policy. State Farm makes no guarantees of results from use of this information.


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