Even though we consider boating a carefree summer activity, people can be seriously injured or killed if boaters fail to pay attention to their surroundings. In just one year, the US Coast Guard reported 4,515 boating accidents, 651 deaths, 3,000 injuries and roughly $38 million in property damage. Learning about the common causes of boating collisions can allow boaters to avoid becoming victims of these potentially deadly incidents.
The Most Common Causes Of Recreational Boating Accidents
Thousands of boat crashes occur each year, and although a number of factors contribute, most collisions share similar characteristics and many may have been avoidable if the driver had taken additional precautions. The most frequent causes of recreational boating accidents are:
- Operator Inattention: According to the Coast Guard, operator inattention is the most common contributing factor in boating accidents. Operators must remember that staying safe is the number one priority on the water. Even though time spent out on the lake with friends and family is somewhat synonymous with fun, it’s important to remain focused on the surroundings whenever the boat is in motion.
- Operator Inexperience: Boat operators need to not only know the relevant laws for operating a boat, but also know any specifics of the vehicle they intend to operate out on the water. Taking a boater education course is an excellent first step toward gaining experience and understanding how to operate a boat safely. Not only will you learn all the rules and regulations you’ll need to be aware of while boating, completion of the course will also save you money on insurance.
- Improper Lookout: This includes both failing to appoint a lookout and the appointed lookout not keeping a close eye on the boat’s surroundings. Similarly, if anyone in the party is engaging in water sports like waterskiing, tubing, or wake boarding, it’s essential that the lookout properly alert any surrounding boats that there’s someone in the water.
- Reckless Actions by Drivers, Passengers or Skiers: Even though boats operate on water, reckless actions by anyone onboard a boat can result in serious consequences. This includes overloading the boat with too many people, which can–in extreme cases–lead to capsizing. People falling overboard is the second leading cause of fatal boating accidents, so it’s important that everyone exercises good judgement when spending time out on the water.
- Equipment Failure: Just like any other vehicle, boats need regular maintenance. Failure to stay up-to-date on your boat’s maintenance could cause it to crash or capsize. Issues with the engine or steering can lead to serious injuries, and failing to have the appropriate equipment onboard (life preservers, navigation lights, flares) can often make an already troublesome situation even worse.
- Speeding: An open body of water may seem like the perfect place to test a boat’s speed. However, slower speeds make other boats, hazards and obstacles easier to see. There are also laws requiring boaters to heavily reduce their speed when in close proximity to the coastline or anchored vessels. These rules are for the safety of everyone and should be followed at all times.
- Alcohol Use: Blood alcohol content (BAC) laws are the same for both boaters and drivers. Operating a boat with a BAC of greater than 0.08 is a criminal offense. It’s not uncommon for people to load up their boat with beers and spend a relaxing day out on the water enjoying a few drinks. However, just because it’s a different type of vehicle than a car doesn’t mean the driver is immune from the state’s drunk driving laws.
A lot of these seem like common sense, but when you compound these types of behaviors there’s the possibility of turning what was supposed to be a peaceful day on the water into a potential nightmare. While there’s never a guarantee you can avoid injury, by moderating your actions, staying aware of your surroundings, and exercising good judgment (all while having a good time) you can go a long way toward reducing the risk of a boating accident.
Experienced Boat Accident and Injury Attorneys
At Stewart Law Offices, our experienced injury attorneys know that negligent boating can damage lives. Our lawyers have experience helping injured parties, including those suffering as a result of boat injuries and accidents.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a boating accident on Lake Wylie, Lake Norman or any other body of water in North Carolina or South Carolina, call Stewart Law Offices for a free consultation. Our attorneys will help you understand your options and determine the best path to recovery.