Oklahomahas more man-made lakes than any other state in the nation. It’s a big reason why boating is a beloved pastime for so many residents. But that fun in the sun can also put your safety at risk. These statistics from the U.S. Coast Guard prove that driving a boat can be just as dangerous as driving a car.

  • In 2010, boating accidents caused 672 fatalities, 3,153 injuries and $35.5 million in damages
  • Nearly three fourths of fatal boating accident victims drowned. 88 percent of those were not wearing a life jacket
  • 91 percent of the deaths involved operators who had not received boating safety instructions
  • 8 out of 10 boaters who drowned were using vessels less than 21 feet long
  • The top accident factors include: Operator inattention, improper lookout, operator inexperience, excessive speed and alcohol
  • Alcohol was the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents in 2010 and was the leading factor in 19 percent of fatal boating accidents

That last stat is proof that alcohol and boats don’t mix. Even if you aren’t in a crash, drinking while driving a boat can cause serious problems.

“Operating a boat while intoxicated is just as dangerous as driving under the influence in a motor vehicle,” said Lt. George Brown with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. “The law is clear. Anyone operating a vessel with 0.08 or more blood alcohol concentration is guilty of operating a vessel under the influence. Many water-related injuries have occurred because of poor decisions and/or risky behavior. Stay safe and please do not take unnecessary chances,” Brown said.

Children 12 and under are required to wear a life jacket while riding in a boat, but the OHP recommends it for everyone on the water.

While adult Oklahoma boaters are not required to take a boating safety course, many choose to do so to reduce the risk of accidents. It may also help you save some money on insurance. Many insurance companies offer a discount of up to 5 percent if the owner completes an approved safety course. Children ages 12-16 need a boating safety certificate in order to operate a motorboat with 10 or more horsepower. The OHP offers a free 6-hour classroom course. Log on to www.okboated.com to find a course near you.

Oklahoma’s lakes and rivers provide a beautiful escape from the stressors of daily life. But be smart when you hit the water so that a day of fun doesn’t turn into a tragedy.