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How To Avoid Boating Accidents

boating accident

What is supposed to be a fun and exciting experience can sometimes result in damage to property, injury, or death. This can be the case where boating is concerned. The top five primary boating accident types according to the U.S. Coast Guard are collision with recreational vessel, collision with fixed object, flooding/swamping, grounding, and capsizing. Within these accident types there were 2,804 accidents, 1,742 physical injuries, and 379 deaths.

Of the two top causes of boating accident deaths, drowning and trauma, 74% of victims were not wearing life jackets and of the drowning victims alone 83% were not wearing a life jacket. These statistics are alarming when you consider that almost all these accidents might have been avoided through various safety precautions. As a minimum, boat operators must make sure they and all passengers wear a life jacket always while on a boat. Let’s look at the top contributing factors and ways to avoid boating accidents.

Failure to Pay Attention

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, this is the number one reason for boating accidents, causing 597 accidents, 45 deaths, and 373 injuries in 2016. Boat operators can easily become distracted by what is going on with other passengers in the boat or on towable devices such as water skis and wake boards, while fishing, by using a cell phone, through alcohol consumption, and even eating and drinking. When operating a boat, the driver must be watchful and vigilant always, and keep an eye on the water and weather conditions, other boaters and swimmers, and obey all boating traffic rules.

Inexperienced Operators

This is much more of a frequent problem than people might think. Many boat operators have never taken boat safety instruction, and according to the same publication referred to above, 77% of deaths in 2016 occurred on boats where the operator didn’t have boating safety instruction. This is a straightforward way to avoid boating accidents. Just as people aren’t allowed to drive a car without driving instruction and passing a test, boat operators should always take the proper instruction safety course. Their life and the lives of their passengers, other boaters, swimmers, and the like are at stake.

Not Having a Lookout

Along the same lines as inattention, not having a proper lookout is one of the biggest causes of boating accidents, causing almost the same number of accidents as inexperienced operators. According to conventional boating regulations boats must maintain a proper lookout at all times, watching for things that might cause accidents or listening for things that might endanger someone. Those in a boat can rotate lookout duty and during their shift that should be their only job.


Another way to avoid boating accidents is to avoid speeding. Boat operators must keep safety at the forefront of their mind at all times, and that includes traveling at the proper speed for the conditions and the experience of the operator. Considerations include the time of day such as when the sun is rising and shining brightly or when boating in the dark, whether it is foggy and overcast, how many other boats and recreational vehicles are on the water, how maneuverable the boat is and how long it takes to stop or turn, how windy it is, the current and wave action, and other factors such as the possibility of sandbars or shallow areas.

Boat Machinery Failure

Another leading cause of boating accidents, injuries, and death is machinery failure. The most common is engine failure due to malfunction or running out of gas. A properly maintained boat engine is vital to avoiding boating accidents. When planning for how much gas to bring, boat operators should plan for the trip to and from their desired location, the duration of the time the boat will be moving, and extra for margin in case of miscalculation or difficulty. Engines should also be properly serviced each year to make sure they are running properly and don’t have any obvious failure points.

Alcohol Use

Just as alcohol use has no place while driving, nor does it while boating. Proportionately alcohol use caused more deaths and injuries per accident than each of the reasons. Where other accidents contributed to 2% to 12% of deaths per category, alcohol use resulted in 30% deaths and 93% injuries. It is illegal to drink and operate a boat in all 50 states. Boat operators and passengers should carefully consider whether to involve alcohol in their recreational activities on the water, since it can so easily result in inattention, delayed reflexes, misperception, accident, vehicle damage, injury, and death.

Have You Been Involved in a Boating Accident?

If you’ve been involved in a boating accident and want to know what your rights are, or simply have questions, we’re here to help. As personal injury attorneys in Mobile, Alabama, we believe you should have the full support you need during the trying time of healing from your injuries or grieving a loved one, while we take care of the legal details of your case. Contact us at the law office of J. Allan Brown or call us at 251-473-6691. We look forward to working with you.

J. Allan Brown, LLC
Law Office of J. Allan Brown, LLC, is located in Mobile, AL and serves clients in and around Mobile, Bucks, Satsuma, Eight Mile, Semmes, Spanish Fort, Citronelle, Theodore, Saraland, Montrose, Irvington, Saint Elmo, Wilmer, Point Clear, Grand Bay, Chunchula, Fairhope, Creola, Bayou La Batre, Axis, Coden, Bay Minette, Silverhill, Baldwin County and Mobile County.
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