Preventing Boating Accidents

Boating is a leisurely pastime enjoyed by many, especially the residents of coastal cities throughout the United States. Unfortunately, this pastime is a sport that is often plagued by accidents and drowning incidents that could have been prevented. In 2004, recreational boating yielded an all-time low in the number of fatality accidents affiliated with the activity.

However, since then the number of accidents and deaths found in conjunction with boating has been gradually on the rise, and the approximately 670 deaths that were reported in 2004 have risen to the impermissible number of 736 in 2009. The following year, numbers jumped back down to 672 (a 9% decrease), but overall the statistics for these incidents remain high, and boating accidents continue to be a problem from which too many people lose their lives, especially considering the fact that many of these fatal incidents could have been avoided if the proper safety measures and routine equipment checks were conducted as expected.

Preventing a boating accident can be as simple as following routine safety measures and ensuring that maintenance inspections are conducted on a regular basis. As with highway driving and roadside laws, the government has stepped in to establish boating regulations as well, and most of these concern the mode of operation and the level of conduct that has been deemed as appropriate for matters of this nature. Included in these regulations are stipulations regarding when and how often boaters need to refuel, as well as when and how often license renewals are required. The laws have even added information on the safest modes of fueling up and which practices should be used vs. which should be avoided at all times. With such specific instructions, there is little reason for water vessel accidents to occur. However, they continue to persist at astounding rates. In 2009 alone, the Coast Guard issued reports citing 4,730 accidents, 736 of which resulted in death and nearly $36 million in property damages. Seventy-five percent of these fatality accidents were ones in which drowning was involved.

Among the number of causes that could lead to a boating accident are operator negligence, product malfunction, and dangerous weather conditions. Aside from the weather, these are conditions that could easily be avoided. In fact, strict laws have been enacted precisely for this reason. Unfortunately, boaters, passengers, and manufacturers continue to make risky decisions when operating, riding, or making water vessels, and it is these very decisions that often result in catastrophe. For instance, Coast Guard reports have indicated that many boaters are operating the vessels despite the fact that they lack the proper licensing and certification. Of all the deaths related to boating accidents, only 14% occurred on boats operated by a certified individual skilled in boating safety instruction. That means that more than 75% of boating accidents and fatalities took place onboard a vessel that was not operated by a qualified person.

It is a sad fact that many of the tragedies to occur on boats are ones that were directly or indirectly caused by a boat driverís negligence. Consumption of alcohol has proven to be a substantial contributing factor to a number of the boating fatality accidents that occur each year; in fact, it was cited as the number one factor for such accidents. Further operator faux pas account for a number of fatal and serious injury accidents, including inexperience, speeding, inattention, and improper lookout. The safety of boat passengers depends a great deal on the responsibility and attention exercised by the operator. When these factors are neglected, serious injuries and fatalities stand to result from accidents that could likely have been avoided if the proper safety measures and laws were followed.

Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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