You’ve spent countless summers on the water. It’s like another home, the place you practically live when summer comes knocking.
But with summer around the corner and boating on the horizon, it’s time to refresh your knowledge of boating safety. After all, if you plan to keep your loved ones safe on the water, you need to know what you’re doing—and you need to know how to be on the lookout for someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing.
According to the Coast Guard’s 2019 Recreational Boating Statistics report, operator inattention, improper lookout, operator inexperience, excessive speed, and alcohol use are the top five contributing factors in boating accidents. Here, we’re breaking down each in detail to take a closer look at how you can keep your loved ones safe—and what to do if someone else puts your loved ones in harm’s way.
It’s easy to let your attention slide on the boat. After all, you’ve been on the water your whole life. You feel comfortable here, safe here. And in any case, it’s not like you’re driving a car, right?
Except that you are, and in some ways, driving a boat can be more dangerous.
Of the five main causes of boating accidents, operator attention ranks number one, contributing to 546 accidents, 36 deaths, and 296 injuries in 2019. Like any other vehicle, operating a boat is a major responsibility. You’re responsible for the lives of the people on your boat and those around you in the water.
Think of it this way: unlike driving a car, where you can at least guarantee you’ll be able to breathe, boating accidents occur on the water, which means you run the real risk of ending up in a situation where you can’t breathe or get back to safe ground.
When driving a boat, you should use at least the same level of care and attention you would use when driving in a car with your kids. Because if anyone else were operating a boat with your kids on it, you would want them to be obsessively cautious.
A related problem is improper lookout, a kind of operator inattention.
When driving a boat, you have to pay attention to any number of things at once—swimmers, water-skiers, kayakers, and submerged objects, to name a few. Not all of them will be easy to see, which is why it’s crucial for the driver of the boat to be incredibly cautious on the water. Just because the water appears to be open doesn’t mean it is.
Ideally, you should have another person helping you keep lookout on the boat, just in case. After all, you have to pay attention to driving the boat. Having a designated lookout viewing the water from a different angle will make it easier to spot things you might otherwise miss—and avoid tragedy.
In much the same way that newly licensed teenagers have a higher than usual crash risk in a group that has a disproportionately high crash risk, inexperienced boat operators pose a significant risk to those around them in the water.
When you’re new to any activity, mistakes are common. That’s part of the learning experience. But when you’re operating a large motorized vehicle, the consequences of those mistakes can be disastrous.
An inexperienced boater should not be allowed to drive a boat without supervision from a more experienced boat operator, someone who can take the wheel if something goes awry. They should also have more than the usual amount of help, mitigating the chance of mistakes. In general, an inexperienced boater should try to avoid operating a boat during crowded days until they can comfortably operate the boat without added supervision and minimal mistakes.
It’s basic reality of physics: the faster you drive, the less time it takes to get from Point A to Point B. And while it’s grand fun to fly across the water, this dramatically decreases the amount of time you have to respond quickly.
As such, in much the same way you should decrease your speed on the highway to drive safely, you should decrease your speed on the water to ensure you have enough time to react.
Think of it as a form of defensive driving, but on the water. You should always operate your boat slower and more cautiously than you think you need to, driving as other people on the water will make the worst possible decision they could make and planning accordingly.
Alcohol use accounts for 23% of boating deaths in 2019, even though it causes the fewest number of known accidents (282) of the accident factors listed here.
When you’re having a beautiful day on the lake and hanging out with friends, chances are you want to have a drink and enjoy yourself. But in much the same way you should never drink and drive, you should never drink and boat either. You’re operating a vehicle in both cases, taking responsibility for the lives of others. And if you’re impaired, you have no business taking that responsibility.
Think of it this way: if you wouldn’t want your kids to get in the car with someone who’s been drinking, you wouldn’t want them to get in a boat with someone who’s been drinking either. And if you wouldn’t want your kids on the lake if you knew someone boating had been drinking, you shouldn’t be that boater either.
A day at the lake should end with everyone drying off to spend time together in the summer evening. Not a boating accident. Unfortunately, not all boaters hit the water with care, and sometimes, that has dangerous consequences for your family.
And we know that’s simply not acceptable.
Our team of boating accident personal injury attorneys know that you shouldn’t have to suffer because of an accident that could have been avoided, and we know how to fight to ensure you have the resources you need to recover when someone else’s carelessness harms you or a loved one.
If you need to speak with an attorney about your options, click here to schedule your free consultation.Share this Article