Recreational vessels less than 26 feet long account for 80% of the underwater impact injuries in which people in the water are struck by a boat or its propeller. Here are some tips to help prevent this from happening to you or someone you know:

Always maintain a proper lookout. The greatest single cause of accidents in which people in the water are struck by a boat or its propeller is operator inattention or carelessness. Look at the area around your boat’s propeller before starting the engine.

Make sure the engine is off so the prepeller is not turning when passengers are boarding or disembarking the boat.

Never start a boat with the engine in gear.

Slow down when approaching congested areas and anchorages. In congested areas, always be alert for swimmers and divers.

Be familiar with warning buoys signifying swimming areas and other hazardous areas.

Before getting underway, make sure passengers are properly seated. Inform your passengers about the location and dangers of the propeller(s), and call attention to any propeller warning labels around your boat.

Never allow passengers to ride on a seatback, gunwale, the transom, or on the bow unless the bow is surrounded with rail at a height which would prevent falls overboard.

When water skiing, designate a passenger who will keep the skier(s) in sight at all times. Communicate with the skiier using the standard hand signals.

Establish and communicate rules fro swim platform use, boarding ladders and seating. Your boat…your rules. Be clear and firm.

If a passenger falls overboard, stop the boat. Then slowly and cautiously turn the boat in the direction of the person in the water, approach slowly while keeping the person in sight. Shut the engine off and bring the person to safety.