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Happy National Safe Boating Campaign Week! While it may still be a little early for us in the Pacific Northwest to be hitting the water, boat safety is always important. Keep your friends and family protected this summer!

Story by Loretta Worters, Insurance Information Institute

Boating season is now upon us - meaning inexperienced and irresponsible boaters can cause accidents, injuries, and even death on waterways.

In 1999, there were nearly 8,000 recreational boating accidents, according to the United States Coast Guard. These accidents were responsible for 734 fatalities and 4,315 injuries. Recreational Boating accidents resulted in $28 million dollars in total property damage. Contributing factors to these accidents include traveling too fast for water or weather conditions, failing to follow boating rules and regulations, carelessness, inexperience and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In fact, alcohol is a major contributing factor in recreational boating accidents, accounting for 26 percent of all boating fatalities.

To prevent boating accidents, follow these safety suggestions:


Before setting out:

  • Check weather forecasts.

  • Let someone know where you're going and when you expect to return.

  • Check engine, fuel, electrical and steering systems, especially for exhaust-system leaks.

  • Carry one or more fire extinguishers, matched to the size and type of the boat. Keep them readily accessible and in condition for immediate use.

  • Equip the vessel with required navigation lights and with a whistle, horn or bell. Consider additional safety devices, such as a paddle or oars, a first-aid kit, a supply of fresh water, a tool kit and spare parts, a flashlight, flares and a radio.


  • Make sure that every person on board the boat wears a life jacket.

  • Know and obey marine traffic laws, the "Rules of the Road." Learn various distress signals.

  • Keep alert around other watercraft, swimmers, floating debris and shallow waters.

  • Don't overload the boat. Don't stand up or shift weight suddenly in a small boat; and don't permit riding on the bow, seatbacks or gunwales.

  • Don't mix alcohol and boating.


  • If you own a boat, make sure you talk to your insurance agent. There are a number of ways that you can adequately insure it depending on its size, speed, and value. Most homeowners or renters insurance policies provide coverage for property damage for small slower powered boats such as canoes, little sailboats or powerboats. Coverage is usually about $1,000 or 10 percent of property coverage. If you own a boat that is less than 25 feet or has a motor of less than 50 horsepower, you may be covered for liability insurance. There are also a number of endorsements available to protect your boat. Make sure you let your agent know how you will transport your boat or where it will be stored. If you "trail" your boat, you will need to be insured for any mishaps that may occur on the road.

  • Many insurers sell packaged policy for specific boats such as jet skis or mid-size motorboats. These policies provide coverage for property damage, medical bills and liability to others. Most policies start at $25,000 worth of coverage, but most insurance experts suggest between $300,000 to $500,000 in liability insurance. You might also consider extending your liability through umbrella or excess liability policy.

  • Owners of boats worth over $100,000 will generally need a yacht policy to protect against damage to the craft including the hull, and to provide wider liability protection. The yacht policy also pays reasonable medical expenses for injured persons.

  • Discounts (five to 10 percent) also are available for diesel - powered crafts that are equipped with safety equipment, such as fire extinguishers and ship-to-shore radios.

  • Some insurance companies award premium discounts (five to 15 percent) to boaters who have successfully completed and attended a recognized safety education course, such as those offered by the Coast Guard, U.S. Power Squadrons and the National Association of State Boat Law Administration. Upon request, the Coast Guard will conduct a Courtesy Marine Examination (CME) on your boat, checking electrical and safety equipment and fuel hoses. Boats meeting safety standards are awarded the CME decal "Seal of Safety."

Call Huff Insurance for a quick protection review, protecting families since 1948!

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