It’s June, which means that the Florida boating season is already in full swing. Getting out onto our waterways and cruising in a boat is one of the joys of living in our state. It’s a great way to relax and enjoy the gorgeous weather.
However, as our waterways get busier and busier, now is a good time to take a pause and remind you that, as fun as boating can be, it also has the potential to be incredibly dangerous – particularly for kids. A crash over Memorial Day weekend illustrates this in tragic detail.
The Pollock family was headed out in their boat for the holiday when the vessel hit the Midpoint Memorial Bridge. Noah Pollock, 12, died from his injuries. Two others, Wade Pollock, 10, and Benjamin Tipton, 72, had to be taken to the hospital. The boys’ father, Ryan Pollock, escaped with only minor injuries.
Now, obviously you can’t account for everything. Sometimes accidents just happen despite your best efforts. Sometimes others behave negligently or recklessly.
What you can do though, is minimize the chances of your kids getting hurt by following all recommended safety guidelines. Below, we’re going to offer several tips to keep your kids safe when boating.
Boating Safety Tips for Florida Kids (and Parents)
Some of these will probably be obvious, but even if you already know them, they bear repeating as a way to remind you of why you should take the time to follow them.
Childproof. This goes beyond preventing your kids from getting into things that can hurt them, although obviously that’s a factor too, especially with young children. Childproofing your boat, though, is also about looking around and thinking about what could potentially harm your kids when the vessel is moving and rocking around.
Are there sharp objects they could get hurt on? Loose things that might cause them to trip or that could go flying if you get in an accident? What about hard edges that could cause injury if they fall onto them? Clear the deck of any unnecessary items – this is good not just for your children, but you, too.
Set down rules – and enforce them. Your specific rules may vary, but it’s important to teach kids the basics and make sure they follow them. Things like no running on the boat and keep your hands and feet inside the vessel. Or always wear your life jacket. The law specifically says that kids 13 and under have to wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved life vests at all times while on a boat.
Invest in some good life jackets. There are all different kinds of life vests out there, but you want to ensure you get ones that are U.S. Coast Guard-approved. Additionally, have your kids fitted so they are wearing life jackets that are appropriate for their weight, and for younger ones, look for vests with extra head support and a bottom strap designed to keep the jacket in place. Swimming aids like noodles and water wings are not appropriate substitutes.
Teach them to swim. Life jackets are great, but if your kids end up in the water, their best defense is knowing how to swim. Don’t worry about advanced techniques. The most important things for them to learn are how to tread water and float.
Don’t bring babies. The Coast Guard says infants shouldn’t be on boats until they’re big enough to wear life jackets. Even then, if your child is on the younger end, they recommend that you hold them in your lap while also wearing your own life jacket.
Watch for shivering. Young kids get colder easier than adults. You may think that this is no big deal, but this means they are at a bigger risk for hypothermia. Don’t take the risk. If you notice shivering, get them a dry towel or blanket.
Take classes. Yes, that plural is intentional. A general family boating safety course can help to show your kids that you’re taking safety seriously – while also teaching both them and you new things.
Additionally, it’s wise to take CPR lessons so you can learn the proper procedure in the event that you have to use it. Performing CPR on younger kids and babies is different than on adults and older children, and a course can make sure you know the difference. As a nice bonus, if you have older kids, this can be their introduction to learning how to perform CPR as well.
Exercise good judgment. That means no drinking while operating your boat. Pay attention to your surroundings. Don’t let older children operate the boat without supervision. Get the boat checked out before you head out to make sure everything is in good working order.
If your kids do get hurt or killed because someone else was acting in a negligent manner, you don’t just have to take it. Fight back by filing a personal injury claim against them. Not only will this help you to hold them accountable, you can receive needed compensation to help you pay for any damages you incurred – including covering medical bills.
Get in touch with a knowledgeable Florida personal injury attorney to talk about your options.
About the Author:
Andrew Winston is a partner at the personal injury law firm of Winston Law. For over 20 years, he has successfully represented countless people in all kinds of personal injury cases, with a particular focus on child injury, legal malpractice, and premises liability. He has been recognized for excellence in the representation of injured clients by admission to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, is AV Preeminent Rated by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, enjoys a 10.0 rating by AVVO as a Top Personal Injury Attorney, has been selected as a Florida “SuperLawyer” from 2011-2017 – an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state – and was voted to Florida Trend’s “Legal Elite” and as one of the Top 100 Lawyers in Florida and one of the Top 100 Lawyers in the Miami area for 2015, 2016, and 2017.