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Fireworks and boating safety in New York

September is a month of celebration across New York. It starts with the Labor Day weekend, when communities everywhere enjoy barbecues, festivals, and fireworks displays, and continues as tourists and vacationers head out to summer cottages near Lake George, Chautauqua Lake, Skaneateles Lake and other bodies of water for one last “hurrah” before closing for the season. Many of them own boats that they use to spend hours on the open water.

One of the bonuses of access to a boat is that you have the best seats in the house for fireworks shows. New York is a coastal state with many lakes, so a lot of people watch the Labor Day pyrotechnics from their yachts and fishing boats. Unfortunately, some of them end up seriously injured.

Boating safety tips during and after the show

According to the Insurance Journal, at least eight people were killed in fireworks-related accidents in 2017 while another 12,900 more suffered injuries severe enough to send them to the emergency room. If you plan on being out on the water during the Labor Day weekend, observing boating safety protocols is critical both during and after the fireworks.

Before the light show begins, take these precautions:

  • Many lakes have restricted areas for boaters to watch the spectacle. Find out where they are before leaving land.
  • If there are no designated “audience zones,” go far enough offshore that drifting embers are less likely to land on your boat.
  • Have a fire extinguisher on hand at all times. If winds are strong and an ember does land on your vessel, put it out at once.
  • Never light fireworks on a boat. If you see other boaters who appear to be using unauthorized fireworks, call the authorities immediately.
  • If there are unused fireworks on your vessel for any reason, keep them away from matches or lighters and out of the reach of children.
  • Wait until the fireworks show is over before heading for shore.

For many people, this is the only time that they operate their boat at night. When the fireworks show concludes and you’re planning to head for shore, bear in mind that operating conditions will become more dangerous due to the darkness. The following tips will help:

  • Confirm that your navigation lights are in good working order before you leave the dock.
  • Have a designated boat operator who does not drink that evening.
  • Submerged sandbars, unlighted docks and piers, and floating obstructions like logs and buoys are more difficult to see, so have one or more sober passengers keep watch as you drive the boat.
  • Drive at a speed that allows you to react appropriately to a sudden emergency.
  • Watch out for other boats: drinking and driving is not exclusive to land. If you see any reckless conduct, steer clear of that vessel and call the authorities.
  • Always wear your life jacket or have it readily available.

Enjoy the Labor Day weekend and its spectacular light show, but do so safely. Happy holidays!!

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