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Boating can be a fun activity for families at Smith Mountain Lake. While enjoyable, boaters have a responsibility to keep children onboard safe.

Boaters should consider these tips while on or near the water:

n All children — even confident swimmers — should wear a properly fitted life jacket any time they are around the water, whether they are playing on the dock or riding in the boat. It doesn’t matter if they know how to swim. The lake environment is vastly different than a neighborhood pool with lifeguards and crystal clear water.

n All passengers, especially children, should be seated while the boat is in operation and remain seated until the captain tells them it is OK to get up. Sudden changes in direction or getting hit by a wake can easily eject a child from the boat or throw them against a fixed object.

n Children can be fascinated with water running under the bow of a boat and may want to watch it and even reach down to touch it. However, never allow children to hang over the bow or dangle their feet over the bow of a moving boat. A child falling from the bow of a moving boat could be struck by the boat’s propeller before the captain has time to take evasive action. It only takes a second.

n Approaching and departing docks is a busy time for the captain and the crew. Teach children the importance of remaining seated while the captain and designated crew take care of docking activities. Children can easily fall overboard because of sudden changes in direction. And never allow children to jump to the dock from a boat until it is safely secured.

n When towing children in a tube, keep the speed down and make adjustments as necessary. Tubes have a tendency to “sling shot” through turns and bounce uncontrollably going over wakes. Children’s heads can easily bang together, resulting in concussions or other serious injuries.

Boating is a fun family activity. Keep children safe and enjoy boating at Smith Mountain Lake.

— Submitted by Neil Harrington with the SML Water Safety Council