Are Duck Tours Safe or a Maritime Accident Waiting to Happen?

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A
Maritime Accident Lawyers
Duck Boat Tour in London, UK (image author: Iridescent, Wikimedia Commons).

Ever been on a Duck Tour? If not, you may wonder what the heck a Duck Tour is. Well, basically, Duck Tours, more specifically Duck Boats, are amphibious vehicles that can operate both on land and sea. A tour that begins on shore can end in the ocean and vice-versa. These tours are quite popular, but after a recent fatal Duck Tour accident in Seattle revealed that the tour operator failed to make critical repairs to the vessel, many are wondering whether Duck Tours are safe and whether these tours should be allowed to operate at all.

Recent and previous Duck Tour tragedies

According to accident reports, at least four international students were killed and several others were injured when the Duck Boat they were riding in collided with a charter bus in Seattle. Washington state suspended the operations of Ride the Ducks of Seattle after the accident investigation found that the company failed to perform proper maintenance on its Duck Tour vehicles. Unfortunately, this isn’t the only accident involving a Duck Boat and it certainly isn’t the only one that may have been prevented.

Several amphibious vehicle tours have made headlines over the years following serious passenger injuries and even fatal maritime accidents. Guests had to leap into the River Thames when their Duck Boat caught fire in London back in 2013, while in 1999, 13 people (including three children) drowned when the amphibious vehicle known as Miss Majestic sunk in Arkansas’ Lake Hamilton.

But were these incidents actually “accidents” or were they the result of the tour operators’ failure to maintain safety? It seems as though the majority are, unfortunately, related to safety negligence.

Commonalities between the majority of Duck Tour accidents

According to CNN, the majority of Duck Boat accidents have been the result of mechanical failures, whether the incident involved a land or maritime accident. One line of amphibious vehicles was known to have a problem with its front axle – a problem that may have contributed to the accident in Seattle.

Given Washington’s recent suspension of Duck Tour operations, many tourists – and maritime accident lawyers – are wondering whether similar tours in other cities and countries are safe. In reality, the safety of Duck Tours is much like the safety of any other sea or shore excursion. Tour operations aren’t always regulated, and more often than not, operators are not obligated to abide by the highest safety standards – especially when these tours occur in foreign countries.

What can you do to stay safe if you choose to take a Duck Tour?

Before opting to take a Duck Tour, take the time to research the tour operator’s record for any accidents or incidents resulting from mechanical issues. Because Duck Tours travel on both land and sea, tour operators should provide guests with life jackets. Don’t be afraid to call ahead and ask the tour operator if life jackets are provided. If they don’t, choose a different operator that does provide guests with floatation devices and be sure to wear them – even if the operator doesn’t require you to.

What happens if an accident does occur while on a Duck Boat?

One of the main issues with Duck Boats is that they are subject to several regulatory bodies. Because they operate on land and on waterways, they are subject to transportation safety regulations as well as maritime safety laws. Because of these complexities, it can sometimes be difficult for Duck Tour accident victims to know where to turn to for help and how to go about filing an accident claim.

As far as accidents in the water are concerned, victims who are injured either while aboard an amphibious vehicle or because of a collision between an amphibious vehicle and their own vessel or personal watercraft (or while swimming) can consult with a maritime attorney for assistance to determine their rights and claim options.