Boating season will soon be in full swing, and enthusiasts from across the country are getting ready to hit the water for a season of sun. Before hoisting anchor, however, captain and crew should take a few moments to review boating basics: according to the latest available data from the U.S. Coast Guard, there were almost 5,000 vessels involved in accidents in 2006, resulting in almost 3,500 injuries.

“A fun day on the water can turn unpleasant—even deadly—if caution isn’t used,” said Joan Harnish, who oversees claims for MetLife Auto & Home’s marine unit. “On average, over 700 people die in boating-related accidents every year. Over two-thirds of all boating fatalities involved drowning, and 90 percent of the victims were not wearing life jackets.”   

“The goal of National Safe Boating Week, which takes place this week, is to heighten awareness among recreational boaters about the importance of wearing a life jacket,” said Virgil Chambers, executive director, National Safe Boating Council. “It’s not enough to simply carry a life jacket; you actually need to wear one. Accidents on the water usually happen too quickly to reach a stored life jacket.”

The following tips can help boaters stay afloat safely this summer:

  • Brush up on the basics. According to the Coast Guard, 80 percent of all boating fatalities occurred on boats where the operator had not completed a boating safety education course.
  • Make a habit of buckling up. Wearing a properly secured life jacket is one of the most effective ways to prevent accidental drowning. Check jackets annually for flotation and fit, especially for children. One size doesn’t fit all.
  • Make plans public. Inform someone staying on land about the details of a trip—the destination, the participants, and the planned length of time on the water.
  • Limit alcohol consumption. Half of all boating fatalities involved alcohol. 
  • For safety purposes, “water wings” just don’t fly. Never use swimming devices such as water wings in place of life jackets or life preservers on children. These toys are not intended to be personal flotation devices.
  • Learn to swim. It’s never too late to learn this potentially lifesaving skill. Swimming classes for adults and children are available in most communities.

To help boaters chart the course to a safer season, MetLife Auto & Home offers a free boating safety guide, endorsed by the U.S. Coast Guard, which highlights the best tips and tools for water safety from 15 Coast Guard publications. Younger sailors can also learn boating safety with a coloring and activity book that features the beloved PEANUTSä gang.  Both are available free by calling 1-800-MET-LIFE (1-800-638-5433).

MetLife Auto & Home is one of the nation’s leading personal lines property and casualty insurance companies. MetLife Auto & Home has developed a reputation for innovation in product design, being the first insurer to introduce product enhancements that provide greater value to consumers, including Identity Theft Resolution Services to both its auto and home insurance customers, offered at no additional charge, which is available in most states. MetLife Auto & Home is a subsidiary of MetLife, Inc. (NYSE: MET), a leading provider of insurance and financial services with operations throughout the U.S., and the Latin America, Europe and Asia Pacific regions. For more information, please visit


Ted Mitchell