Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Bow Riding Kills

In an effort to improve boating safety on the east coast, the United States Coast Guard began Operation Bow Rider last week. Their goal is to increase awareness of the dangers associated with bow riding.

"Bow riding" refers to the unsafe practice of passengers remaining on the bow of a recreational vessel while it is making way.

They don't seem to be talking about sitting in the seats of a bow rider style of boat or a deck boat – those are made for riding as long as the passengers are safely seated while the vessel is underway. The danger of bow riding exists when passengers are sitting on the slippery surface of the bow, often without a railing or seat (just like this editor used to do all the time as a kid, feet dangling in front of the bow across the waters of Long Island Sound.)

Wearing a life jacket does not make bow riding much safer, as the danger lies in being hit by both the boat and propeller after falling off the bow unexpectedly. Ouch. Apparently this is more gruesomely common than you might think… In the Coast Guard's 5th District, where Operation Bow Rider has begun, from North Carolina to mid New Jersey, 20% of the boating fatalities two years ago were directly linked to bow riding.

But many boaters don’t realize that bow riding is dangerous, the same way we didn’t realize driving without seatbelts was dangerous 40 years ago. The Coast Guard’s 5th District commander, Rear Adm. Dean Lee, puts it this way: “You wouldn’t allow your kids to sit of the hood of your car, so why would you allow them to sit on the bow of your boat?”


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