Personal Injury

The Top 5 Most Common Causes of Boating Accidents

You’ve spent countless summers on the water. It’s like another home, the place you practically live when summer comes knocking. With summer and boating season upon us, now is a great time to refresh your knowledge on boating safety, and how to prevent boating accidents.

After all, in order to keep yourself and your family safe on the water, you need to know what you’re doing–and what to look out for.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard’s 2020 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.

1. Operator Inattention

older white man wearing sunglasses, operating a motor boat while two passengers have a conversation in the background.

It can be easy to let your attention slide while on the boat. After you’ve been on the water for so long, you feel comfortable and safe. In any case, it’s not like you’re driving in a car, right?

Except that you are, and in some ways, driving a boat can be more dangerous.

Out of all boating accident causes, operator attention, or more likely inattention, ranks number one. In 2020 alone, it caused 664 accidents, 55 deaths, and 383 injuries.

Like with any other vehicle, operating a boat is a major responsibility. You’re responsible not only for the people on your boat, but also for those on the water around you.

Unlike driving a car, where you can at least guarantee solid ground and the ability to breathe, boating accidents occur on the water. This 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 children. Because if anyone else were operating a boat with your children on it, you would want them to be obsessively cautious.

2. Improper Lookout

Experienced navigational officer looking through binoculars into the ocean, looking out for any obstacles or obstructions that could cause a boating accident.

Related to operator inattention, improper lookout is the second most common cause of boating accidents.

When driving a boat, there are a large number of factors that you must pay attention to, including swimmers, kayakers, water-skiers, and submerged objects. Not all of them will be easy for the driver 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 look safe doesn’t mean it always is.

Ideally, you would have another person on the boat helping you look out for any dangers. After all, your first priority is handling the boat. Having a designated lookout viewing the water from a different angle can make it easier on the driver to spot things they might have otherwise missed.

3. Operator Inexperience

inexperienced groom driving a motor boat on the lake on his wedding day

Just like how 16- to 19-year-olds are nearly four times more likely to be involved in a car crash than drivers over 20, inexperienced boat operators pose a significantly higher risk to those around them on the water.

With any activity, beginners are more prone to mistakes. That’s part of the learning experience. But, when you’re driving a large motorized vehicle that happens to operate on water and not land, the consequences can be catastrophic.

An inexperienced boater should never be allowed to drive a boat without the supervision of someone who is experienced. To further mitigate any chance of a mistake, inexperienced drivers should also be given more than the usual amount of assistance. In general, an inexperienced boater should avoid driving during crowded days until they can comfortably operate the boat with minimal mistakes and without added supervision.

4. Excessive Speed

luxury motor boat speeds across the sea during sunset

The faster you drive, the less time it takes for you to get from point A to point B—that’s a basic reality of physics. While it’s fun to speed across the water, this dramatically decreases your reaction time and increases other risk factors.

When you’re driving through a congested highway, you usually slow down to accommodate the speed of others. The same applies to vehicles on water. You should always decrease your speed to ensure you have enough time to react.

Think of it as a form of defensive driving, but on the water. Always operate a few steps ahead, thinking not only about your driving, but also of every other boat operator. If you already expect the other driver to make the worst mistake they can, you’ll never be surprised.

5. Alcohol Use

a glass filled partially with red wine, sitting on the deck of a yacht

When it’s a warm, sunny day on the water and you’re with friends, chances are that you might have a drink at some point.

If you shouldn’t drink and drive a motor vehicle, then the same can be said for a boat. In both scenarios, you’re taking responsibility for you and those around you. If you’re impaired, you have no business taking that responsibility.

In fact, out of the top 10 causes of boating accidents in 2020, alcohol use ranked seventh. Although it accounted for only 7.5% of crashes, it was responsible for 25.6% of the deaths.

Don’t Let Boating Accidents Run You Aground

A day at the lake should end with everyone drying off and having fun, not a boating accident. Unfortunately, not all boaters hit the water with care, and sometimes, that has dangerous consequences for you and your family.

You shouldn’t have to suffer after a boating accident—that’s why our personal injury attorneys at Giroux Pappas Trial Attorneys will fight to ensure you have the resources that you need.

If you need to speak with an attorney about your options, click here to schedule your free consultation.

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Evan Pappas

Evan Pappas's Bio

Evan Pappas is passionate about helping people that may have been injured in an accident; auto, trucking, motorcycle, medical negligence, police brutality, sex abuse and assault and others.