Common Boating Accidents and How to Avoid Them

Arizona has more lakes and rivers than many people assume. However, the state also has the fifth highest boating accident rate in the country. Why is that?

With summer in full swing, Americans all over the country are hitching up their boats and taking to the waterways to relax and enjoy time on the waves. However, what starts out as a fun excursion can quickly turn into an extremely deadly situation if safety is not prioritized on the water. Arizona is home to many beautiful lakes and rivers, but is also ranked fifth out of all the states for total number of boating accidents as well as seventh for the total number of water-related injuries. Before setting out in your boat, take the time to learn about the common causes of boating accidents and how to prevent them.

Overloading Your Vessel: Planning on hosting a party on your boat? Before sending out those invitations, check to see how much weight or the number of people that the manufacturer says your boat can carry. If you exceed the carrying capacity, you are at a higher risk of an accident, and if that accident occurs, the number of casualties resulting from it will rise. Overloading can also cause mechanical malfunctions. Make sure you have enough lifejackets aboard for everyone and that all minors, the elderly and the frail are wearing one at all times.

Reckless Operation: If one of your guests has had a few too many drinks and is now riding on the bow of your boat, it is your responsibility to make sure that this person - and all other guests aboard your vessel - conduct themselves in a safe manner. Excessive speed is another major factor in boating accidents. Slowing down will increase your ability to see people and objects in the water, as well as avoiding sandbars, boaters and further hazards. Other reckless activities include intentionally splashing or playing "chicken" with other watercrafts. Keep a safe distance away from other boaters and always use common sense. Take an educational boating class and remain alert while on the water, especially when other people are nearby. All boaters need to know the meaning and implication of "stand on" and "give way."

Equipment Malfunction: As with other types of vehicle, your mechanical equipment can fail to work if it is not properly maintained, so perform regular maintenance to keep the craft in full working order. To avoid the dangers of carbon monoxide, don't operate your boat with passengers in close proximity to engine and generator exhausts, particularly on days with little or no wind.

Hazardous Waters: Consider any situation where the waters are congested with other boaters or water with strong currents and turbid areas to be hazardous. Avoid boating on holidays, spring break and weekends if you are looking to spend some time on the open water since, during congested times, there may not be room to do much more than simply float around in one spot.

Weather: While you may assume the day is going to be all blue skies and sunshine, remember that weather conditions can change rapidly, especially during Arizona's monsoon season.

Operator Inexperience: Operator inexperience has been the leading cause of boating accidents nationwide for the last 15 years. It is highly recommended that anyone who owns a boat or is planning on piloting one at any point take a boating education course in order to learn safety laws, protocols and regulations regarding the waterways.

Alcohol Consumption: Just as you should not drive a motor vehicle while under the influence, you should also take care to never drink and operate your boat. Similar to driving on roads, the BAC limit you can have and still operate a boat is less than .08. However, if you feel the slightest bit drunk, you are putting yourself, your passengers and everyone around you in danger.

What to do after an accident
Under federal law, the owner or operator of each watercraft involved in an accident is responsible for filing a report whenever a boating accident has occurred. If a personal injury requires medical treatment beyond first aid, a person is missing from the vessel and death or injury is suspected, or if a person dies within 24 hours of the occurrence, the report must be filed within 48 hours. When an accident involving any watercraft or its equipment causes property damage of $2,000 or more, a complete loss of any vessel, or if a person dies more than 24 hours after the occurrence, the report must be filed within 10 days. Minor accidents do not require a report unless a person suffering injury requires a trip to the ER, in which case, you must report the incident. If you or someone you know is hurt in a boating accident at any time this season, remember that you have legal rights.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Skousen, Gulbrandsen and Patience
Skousen, Gulbrandsen & Patience, PLC is a respected law firm based in Phoenix, Arizona.

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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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