Both boat operators and passengers can do their part to prevent injuries and fatalities as a result of boating accidents.
Some of the most important tips to prevent boating accidents include the following:
- Always boat sober. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, alcohol is the leading contributing cause of boating accident deaths. In 2011, alcohol use was responsible for 16 percent of boating accident deaths – more than any other single cause. Unfortunately, being out in the hot sun and on the water all day can exacerbate the effects of alcohol, and it is far too easy for a boat operator to be drunk and not be aware of it. Making a commitment to stop after a drink or two – or better yet, not to drink at all – is a smart choice when operating a boat. You can avoid an arrest for boating while intoxicated and you can also save lives.
- Make sure there is adequate safety equipment onboard the boat. There should be life jackets and other flotation devices available for everyone, as well as a first-aid kit and emergency supplies. Boat lights, a fire extinguisher and an anchor should also be aboard every vessel. The Coast Guard has estimated that 70 percent of boat accident deaths occur due to drowning, and that 84 percent of those who drown do not have life jackets on. Boat owners should provide life jackets, and passengers should wear them.
- Maintain the boat and all safety equipment properly. Failure of the boat or boat equipment was a factor in 424 accidents, 28 deaths and 151 injuries in 2011, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.
- Monitor weather and water conditions carefully. The Coast Guard attributes 771 accidents, 155 deaths and 461 injuries in 2011 to environmental issues such as weather, congested waterways, problems with dams, missing navigation aids and hazardous waters. You should check the weather report and report on water conditions before heading out. If it looks like the weather is going to get bad, you should return to shore as soon as possible.
- Load passengers and gear carefully. In 2011, there were 193 accidents, 79 deaths and 109 injuries resulting from problems loading passengers or gear. These problems included improper anchoring, overloading the boat and improper weight distribution. Be sure to follow guidelines for your boat and to load the vessel carefully to avoid capsizing and other accidents.
- Take an accredited boat safety course. According to the Coast Guard, around 90 percent of boating accident deaths involved boat operators who had not received safety instructions. Only 7 percent of fatalities occurred aboard boats that were operated by someone who had been through a National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA)-accredited boater safety course.
- Be watchful and vigilant. Operator inattention was the cause of 581 accidents, 58 deaths and 363 injuries in 2011. Be sure to always keep your eyes on the water and pay attention to safe boat operations. Do not be distracted by passengers or other onboard diversions, but instead keep focused on the boat’s movements, water and weather conditions, other vessels and your surroundings.
- Maintain a safe speed. Excess speed was a primary contributing factor in 349 accidents, 28 deaths and 321 injuries in 2011. You should obey the speed limits and travel at a speed that is safe in light of current water and weather conditions.
- Follow all boating and navigation rules. There are many rules for safe boating, just as there are traffic safety rules on the road. These rules must be followed, as they exist to promote safety and prevent accidents. All boaters should learn them and obey them.
By following these basic tips, boaters can significantly reduce the chances of an accident and can help to keep themselves, their passengers and other boaters safe.
If you’ve been seriously hurt in a South Carolina boating accident that was caused by someone else’s negligence, you can trust our attorneys to work hard to get you the money and benefits you deserve.