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Night boating safety tips

While recreational boaters can often just head to shore when the sun falls, if they're not comfortable driving at night, the same is not always true for those running commercial vessels. Schedules and jobs may require them to continue boating after dark.

Like driving a car at night, boating in the dark carries more potential risks than boating during the day, and so it's very important to know how to do so safely. With that in mind, here are some tips that can help:

  • When it doubt, reduce speed. This is often a difficult thing to do for workers who have schedules to keep, but it is better to arrive late than to risk an accident.
  • Make sure the crew has the proper emergency gear. For instance, they need lifejackets, flashlights and possibly even night-vision goggles. An accident at night puts people in far more danger if they're not equipped to deal with it.
  • Use a look-out. Do not count on the captain to guide the boat and see all hazards. A lookout with a radio who does nothing but watch for problems can save the craft.
  • Try to cut back on the light on the boat. For instance, a chartplotter can be useful, but looking at it too much can reduce someone's night vision so that they can't see as well when they need to most.
  • Understand that your eyes play tricks on you in the dark. You may see things that do not exist or overlook those that do.

Even with these tips, accidents happen at night. Workers who get injured have to know what legal rights they have.

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