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Boaters can set a goal to make their boating activities safer. Traffic laws on the water are established by Federal, State and County boating agencies. The primary agency, United States Coast Guard (U.S.C.G.) refers to the laws as “The Rules of the Road” and publishes them. Few boaters realize the rules apply to all vessels, pleasure or commercial, and their operators. Perhaps the fact the boating “laws” are referred to as “rules” make boaters think they can disregard them.

Automobile drivers know highway traffic laws – yield, no passing zones, and speed limits. Fewer boat owners understand the rules (laws) on the waterways. Those that do should never assume others know them.

Coast Guard publications state, “No matter who is breaking the rules, every boat operator is responsible for taking any necessary action to avoid a collision”. This makes it difficult to know how to respond to “The Rules Of The Road”. Thus, you as the operator of your boat are expected to be responsible for your actions as well as the actions of all boaters you encounter on the water.

  • Rule # 5 states you must keep or post a constant lookout when underway. Many boaters fail to observe this rule. They operate on autopilot with no lookout.
  • Rule # 9 states avoid anchoring in a narrow channel. Drivers don’t park a vehicle in the middle of the highway. On the water it is not uncommon to come upon a boat anchored right in the middle of a fairway.
  • Rule # 6 states every vessel shall proceed at a safe speed so to avoid a collision and be able to stop within a distance appropriate to the conditions. Performance vessels race across the waters at excessive speeds. The operators presume everyone will give way because they can hear them coming.

Be a safe boater and know “The Rules of the Road”. You can review information online at Navigational Center. For more in-depth knowledge, take a U.S.C.G. Aux or United States Power Squadron boating course.

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