In the age of technology, it’s easier than ever to keep your family and friends up-to-date on your plans for the day. Create your own float plan determining when and where you plan to launch and dock, who you’ll be with and the best way to contact you. Then give the plan to someone who can make sure you’re meeting your checkpoints. By filling out a proper float plan, the right people know when and where to look for you in the case of an emergency. Use this US Coast Float Plan template next time you head out on the water:

Just like driving a car, the best way to learn how to operate a boat is by taking a boating safety course. In fact, most states require operators to complete a boating safety course before driving a boat, but this doesn’t stop everyone. According to data collected by the US Coast Guard, 77% of deaths occurred on vessels where the operator did not complete boating safety education. You wouldn’t let someone without a license drive a car, so why would you let them drive a boat? Keep your friends and family safe on the water. Take an approved boating safety course today:

It’s common knowledge that driving a car under the influence is illegal and dangerous, and boats are no different. And yet, one of the leading contributing factors to fatal boating accidents is alcohol. Keep your friends and family safe on the water by leaving the bottle on shore.

It may seem obvious to say, “Always wear a life jacket,” but you’d be surprised by how many people still think an accident won’t happen to them. In the case of an emergency, you likely won’t have time to put on your PFD – personal flotation device – so you should put it on before you even board the boat. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the number one factor in boating-related deaths is not wearing a life jacket. And the best way to protect yourself from drowning is to wear your PFD! It can’t save you if you don’t put it on.

Before heading out on the water, you should always make sure you and your vessel are prepared. Checking your boat for damage is just as important as making sure you have the right gear with you. From PFDs to VHF radios, EPIRBs and PLBs, having the right gear on your vessel could end up saving your life, so take the time to be prepared. It’s also important to make sure your EPIRBs and PLBs are properly registered and up to date to better aid in an emergency response. Register your gear with NOAA by here:

When you see a buoy out on the water, do you know what the symbol means? Just like road signs, these navigation aids give boaters the information they need to safely navigate the waterways. Buoys signal boaters to slow down in no wake zones, notify them of restricted areas and even alert them to hazards in the water. Collisions are the number one type of accident on the water, but they can easily be avoided with the proper understanding of navigation rules and buoy symbols. Knowing these markers will help ensure that you, your family and your friends have a fun – and safe – day on the water.

Aquatic ecosystems are fragile environments that can be easily damaged by careless recreators. Keep in mind that when you head out onto the water, you’re entering someone else’s home – the fish, waterfowl, turtles and other wildlife that live in these rivers, lakes and oceans depend on these environments. Keep our aquatic ecosystems safe and healthy by: adhering to slow or no wake zones, properly disposing of trash and fishing line onshore, and thoroughly washing your vessel before and after your day on the water to prevent the spread of invasive species. Practice safe and responsible boating next time you hit the water:

Did you know that excessive speed is one of the leading causes of boating accidents? Speeding may not seem that dangerous when you have a wide open lake around you, but it is. Below the surface there are many hidden hazards like sandbars, sunken trees, rocks or even swimmers. On top of hidden hazards, other vessels in the water may come out of nowhere and surprise you. This can be especially dangerous because boats don’t have brakes like cars do, so when you drive too fast, you lose the ability to stop quickly. This can lead to serious property damage, injury or even death. Keep your day on the water fun AND safe. Boat responsibly. Slow down.