Summer provides the perfect time to practically live at the lake if you so desire. Perhaps that’s why more than 20 million Americans, or 7.3% of all residents over the age of 16, own a boat of some form. Bass boats are the most common type of water vessel since they’re simple and affordable enough for just about anyone to use. But any type of boat, from a canoe to a schooner can lead to unexpected disaster. Fortunately, some of the easiest and most sensible boat safety tips can help ensure everyone continues to have fun in the sun.

Always Check the Weather

Around 74 million Americans participate in recreational boating on an annual basis. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, 4,158 occurred in 2015 alone, which resulted in 2,613 injuries, 626 fatalities, and $42 million in property damage. A competent Michigan boat accident attorney can easily help you get coverage for the property damage and even the injuries. But those fatalities are almost always completely avoidable. When tragedy strikes, it’s usually due to one of three reasons: Someone falls overboard, the boat overturns (capsizes) in the water, or it hits or collides with another object.

Hypothermia is a serious condition caused by having a suddenly low body temperature. This happens incredibly fast in the water since the body reacts 25 times quicker to cold water than it does to cold air. Once dexterity and coordination problems set in, drowning can be inevitable. Hypothermia can set in as quickly as 15 minutes in water temperatures of 32.5° to 40° Fahrenheit.

Prioritize Safety Equipment and Lifejacket Usage

Always know your craft and check it for water safety prior to an outing. Use a pre-approved list if you’re unsure where to start. Horns, lights, distress signals, tools, and fuel are essential to safe boating. Never overload your vessel and always include plenty of lifejackets. Approximately 78% of all boating fatalities are due to drowning, and 84% of those victims were discovered without a lifejacket. While older passengers and strong swimmers may not feel they need one, passengers without excessive swimming training definitely should. Make sure every child in the group is wearing a lifejacket for the entire experience. Yes, they’re bulky and not always the most attractive accessory, but as their name implies they save lives.

Use Common Sense

Boat safety can only be achieved when operators and passengers use plenty of common sense. Learn how to swim prior to boarding a boat. A life jacket will help keep you buoyant until help arrives if you’ve fallen over, but you may still have to swim a bit to get out of harm’s way. Take a boating class. Even seasoned boat operators need an occasional refresher course. Avoid alcohol while boating. Too many people believe booze and boats go hand-in-hand. But the chances of having a boating accident are doubled when alcohol is involved. The elements also exacerbate the effects of the alcohol, so you could get drunk and distracted a lot quicker on the water. And be sure to keep the number of your boat accident attorney on hand at all times. As careful and responsible as you may be, you simply can’t control the actions of others.