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Watercraft safety tips

Many Utah residents are heading for the nearest lake or dam to beat the summer heat. Whether you own some type of watercraft, rent one or are going along for the ride, keep safety and courtesy in mind. Consider these tips.

*Practice defensive boating. Nationally, operator fault has been determined in more than 75 percent of boating accidents. Common causes include excessive speed, failure to maintain proper lookout, carelessness and inexperience. About 33 percent of boating citations involve improper boat handling.

*Wear a life jacket. Boating accidents can occur without warning. It is estimated that 75 percent of those who drown in water accidents would have survived had they worn a personal flotation device (PFD). Utah law requires that boats have a properly sized U.S. Coast Guard-approved PFD for each person aboard. With few exceptions, all individuals being towed in the water, operating a personal watercraft, 12 years of age or younger and white water rafting are required by law to wear a PFD.

*Be smart about propeller operation. When swimmers are in the water near the boat, turn off the engine.

*Watch for swimmers. Boat operators and passengers should scan the water surface for floating obstacles and swimmers and be prepared to slow and change direction if necessary.

*Plan for emergencies. Common emergencies include colliding with another boat or obstacle, capsizing, someone falling overboard and bad weather. Boats are required by law to have on-board safety equipment such as PFDs, fire extinguishers, navigation lights, audible signaling devices and bailing devices. Safety equipment should be available and in good operating condition. Be sure you know how to use it.

*Have a radio or cell phone on board. In the event of an emergency or mechanical problem, a radio is the best way to request assistance. Assistance calls are transmitted on channel 16, which is the channel monitored for search and rescue. However, often the closest assistance is another watercraft in the immediate area. Cell phones can also be useful, but the signal may not work and other boats cannot monitor your request for assistance.

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