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10.2.2019 Drew Bartek

How to Safely Drive a Boat

Boating is a lot of fun and everyone has a great time out on the lake. Unfortunately, safety is sometimes not on the top of mind for people out on the water. According to the United States Coast Guard, there were 633 boating fatalities in the U.S. last year. The five leading causes to accidents are: operator inattention, improper lookout, operator inexperience, machinery failure, and excessive speed. Alcohol was a contributing factor in 19% of the deaths. Taking the steps to be a safe driver is necessary for the safety of your friends and family. In this article we review the ways drivers can ensure that they are equipped and driving safely.

The most important thing that drivers need to develop a sense of awareness of what is going around their boat and on the water. They should know what is in front, behind, and to the sides of the boat. You can’t control what other people are doing on the water, its important to keep an eye on what others are doing to keep your rider and passengers safe. It will take some time but after awhile you will develop a 360-degree awareness of everything that is going on. You will take mental notes of the traffic, docks, buoys, water depth and more. One way you can make it easier on yourself is by making sure your boat is properly equipped with a mirror. Not all boats come with mirrors which causes the driver to have to constantly be turning around while driving their boat.


A good driver is the captain of their boat. Being the captain is much more than just driving. It also includes setting the rules and expectations for everyone who is a passenger and riding behind the boat. The driver needs to be the one in control and calling the shots. Rules should include everyone being seated in the boat while its moving, passengers’ hands and feet should be a safe distance from the tow line, and have someone always watching the rider in case they fall.


When it comes to towing speeds, the driver should be aware of the skill level of the rider and the different speeds appropriate for the watersport. Talk with your rider and make sure that the speed you are going is a comfortable speed for them to perform at a high level. When it comes to getting to the desired speed try and smoothly accelerate by gradually increasing the speed to the desired speed as opposed to throttling the gas.


Additionally, if the water is choppy due to wind or other boats, you may want to take it a bit slower or wait for it to calm down.  If your rider is less experienced and does not know what speed they prefer, reference the chart below for our recommended speeds for various watersports. These speeds are not the same for everyone, if you have children riding then you should be a little bit lower than these speeds. If you are a more advanced rider you may have certain preferences on the speeds that you like that may be outside of this suggested range. If your boat has speed control, which is often found on specialized wakesport boats then maintaining the speed is easy. You can lock into the desired speed and the computer takes over maintaining the speed. The computer also allows for the slightest adjustments as small as 0.1 mph.

Published by Drew Bartek October 2, 2019
Drew Bartek