Good To Know Articles

Boat and Lake Safety for Kids: 6 Must-Know Rules

By Marisa Abbe, PhD | Contributor

With summertime weather here, many families will head to the lake to beat the heat and cool off.

To keep you and your family safe, the experts from the Children’s Health℠ Injury Prevention program offer these boating and lake safety rules.

  1. Enroll in a Boater Safety Course. Texas boat safety requirements state you must be at least 16 years old to drive a motor-powered boat. Do not allow teens under 16 to drive watercraft without adult supervision.
  2. Wear a Coast Guard approved Personal Flotation Device (PFD, life jacket) at all times when boating or on a personal watercraft. A properly fitted life jacket is snug, yet comfortable, and will not move above the chin or ears when you lift it at the shoulders. And remember that kids do what their parents do. Set a good example and show them that safety is important to you.

Did you know 80% of people who drown in boating accidents weren’t wearing a life jacket? Texas life jacket laws state all children under 13 are required to wear a life jacket on boats under 26 feet in length.

  1. Stay away from alcohol while boating. Driving a boat under the influence of alcohol is illegal. Alcohol makes it difficult to drive safely, to see objects in the water, and to supervise young children so they are safe.

Did you know most boating accidents happen when the driver has been drinking? In Texas, a person arrested for Boating While Intoxicated (BWI) may go to jail for up to 180 days and charged up to $2,000. Not to mention possibly having their driver’s license suspended.

  1. Practice active supervision as the best protection. Assign an adult “water watcher” to supervise kids in or around the water always. A water watcher is totally focused on watching the water, and not socializing, texting, fishing, drinking, reading, etc. Touch supervision is essential for young children and those who are not strong swimmers.
  2. Only swim in designated swimming areas. If you let your children swim in open water, it may be difficult for other boaters to see them. Also, make sure that you and your children don’t dive into the lake because it’s usually too dark to see just how far down the bottom really is.
  3. Throw, don’t go. If you see someone struggling in the water, find a flotation device to throw to them. Never jump in to save someone, because you could be pulled under, too.

Editor’s Note: Learn more from experts at Children’s Health about keeping your family safe and making summer smart. To stay current on the health insight, sign up for the Children’s Health newsletter and have more tips sent directly to your inbox. For more on this topic, click here


Marisa Abbe, PhD, CPSTI, is the Manager of the Injury Prevention Service at Children’s Health. Her areas of expertise are drowning prevention, child passenger safety, safe sleep, and how to design injury prevention interventions in community and health care settings.

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