The Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department’s State Parks Division announces this year’s National Safe Boating Week begins May 22 and ends May 28. The week highlights the importance of safe boating practices and wearing a life jacket while engaging in any water activity.
New Mexico State Parks has seen many new recreational boaters on the water over the last year. Vessel operators are responsible to know the rules of the water, be aware of low water levels and limit unnecessary risk not only to themselves, but to other boaters and passengers. Before heading out this spring and summer, check the State Parks website and Know Before You Go for the most up-to-date information about lake levels, park openings, hours, and regulations.
New Mexico is currently experiencing extended and widespread drought conditions. Many lakes in New Mexico are open but water levels in many state park lakes are or projected to be at low levels. These conditions have forced the closure of boat ramps in some parks for public safety concerns and to prevent property damage during launching and loading of boats.
U.S. Coast Guard statistics show that drowning was the reported cause of death in four out of five recreational boating fatalities in 2019, and that 86 percent of those who drowned were not wearing life jackets. New life jackets are much more comfortable, lightweight, and stylish than the bulky orange style most boaters know. There are innovative options, such as inflatable life jackets, allowing mobility and flexibility for activities like boating, fishing, paddling, or hunting, and are much cooler in the warmer weather.
The National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) offers these tips for keeping yourself, other boaters, and law enforcement officers safe and healthy while boating.
- No matter what activity you have planned on the water, always remember to wear a life jacket every time you are on the water.
- Make sure your life jacket is U.S. Coast Guard approved, appropriate for your water activity, and fits properly. A life jacket that is too large or too small can cause different situational problems.
- Know state boating laws. Rules and laws can differ from state to state and violations can result in ticketing, fines, or jail time.
- Take a boating safety course. Learn valuable tips that can help save your life in unexpected situations by taking an approved boating safety course. Many courses are online and will save you money on your boat insurance.
- Make sure your boat is prepared. There are many items that need to be checked and rechecked on any boat. Schedule a Vessel Safety Check with your local U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary before you hit the water. Every Vessel Safety Check is conducted free of charge.
- Be sure to know your boat’s capacity. If you have too much or too many on your boat, the boat may become unstable and capsize.
- Check the weather, including the water temperature. Know the latest weather forecast prior to going out and check regularly for changing conditions.
- Dress properly. Always dress for the weather.
- Always file a float plan with someone you trust that includes details about the trip.
- Always follow navigation rules. Know the “Rules of the Road” such as operator’s responsibility, maintaining a proper lookout, safe speed, crossing, meeting head-on, and overtaking situations.
- Know what’s going on around you at all times, and always travel at safe speeds for the environment.
- Don’t drink while you boat. Where the primary cause was known, alcohol was listed as a leading factor in boating-related deaths.