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Boating Safety

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, in 2009, 4,730 boating accidents resulted in 736 deaths and 3,358 injuries; Kentucky had 29 boating deaths.

About 75 percent of fatalities were due to drowning and, of those, 84 percent were not wearing a life vest. Inattention, inexperience, excessive speed, improper lookout, and alcohol were the main factors for boating injuries and fatalities.

Simple precautions can make for a safer day out on the water:

Always wear a properly fitting, Coast Guard-certified life vest when on a boat or Jet Ski. Children under age 3 should have head and neck support, as well as a crotch strap. All occupants must have a life vest onboard and children under 12 must wear their life vests at all times.

• Alcohol and water don’t mix. Alcohol will impair your judgment. State law prohibits the drinking of alcoholic beverages on public waterways.

• Know boating rules so you are aware of which boat has the right of way.

• Be a defensive boater. Even if you know the rules, others may not, so you have to operate defensively.

• Operate your boat or personal watercraft in a responsible manner at a safe speed, and at a safe distance from the shore, swimmers, divers, dams, and other boats.

Between the ages of 12 and 17, a child operating a motorized boat or personal watercraft, without an adult present onboard, is required to have a boater safety card.


The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife provides two options for obtaining a boater safety card. Free boater education classes are offered during the spring and summer. For more information, go to, click the Events tab, check “Boater Education,” and then hit the “Search” box, or send an e-mail to

The second option is the Kentucky Online Boating Safety Course and Boater Exam, which costs $29.50. This course can be found at and can be taken year-round.

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