Our boating accident lawyers here at LMAW often discuss some of the important safety factors to consider while sailing in open waters, in order to prevent an injury. Here in Florida, we tend to have a higher number of boat accidents due to the fact that we are surrounded by water. However, boating accidents can occur anywhere and anytime.
In 2012 alone, the U.S. Coast Guard reported over 4,000 boating accidents leading to over 600 deaths. 3000 people were injured as a result of these accidents and boating accidents cost citizens over $38 million in damage to property and personal injury costs. The Coast Guard released a summary of the factors contributing to these accidents, which can help boaters avoid a tragedy while sailing.
Among the top contributing factors to accidents, boater inattention tops the list. This led to over 500 accidents and over 40 deaths in 2012 alone. Inexperience, machinery failure, and excessive speed were also to blame for accidents, as was alcohol intoxication. Many of these accidents could have been prevented by avoiding these unsafe actions.
The most common types of boating accidents are collisions, flooding, and groundings. However, many of these incidents can be avoided by paying careful attention to one’s surroundings and having a keen awareness of local boating laws. One way to prevent an accident is for boaters to use up-to-date maps, which will show areas that can pose a potential grounding hazard, such as areas where there are a large number of reefs. Because sea conditions can change based on the tide, season, or even due to shifting sand, boaters should take the time to understand the unique conditions of the areas they are visiting and avoid those that are more high-risk. Technological advances can also provide boaters with up-to-date underwater topological information. Boaters should also use caution when sailing in waters that are known to be shallow, and maintain a prudent speed at all times.
Many accidents can also be avoided by ensuring all boating equipment is properly checked and in safe condition. Vessels should be regularly checked and updated with the latest safety technology. Boaters who are taking their vessels out after long periods of non-use should be extra thorough when inspect equipment to prevent mishaps.
As far as fatalities are concerned, the main cause of death for boaters is drowning, but trauma comes a close second. To lower the risk of a life-threatening injury or fatal accident, boaters should ensure that everyone on board is wearing a life jacket. Furthermore, when boating with children are on board, parents should watch their kids closely, especially if they plan to swim in open water. Many injuries are caused by boat propellers, so it’s imperative to ensure the vessel’s engine turned off before anyone disembarks.
Boaters suffer trauma most frequently during collisions, but docking can also pose some safety hazards. It is every captain’s responsibility to uphold safe docking procedures with all passengers, before docking takes place. Ensure speeds are reduced while approaching a dock, and that passengers are seated with hands and arms inside the vessel.
Hypothermia is another frequent cause of death among boaters. Even on warm days, boaters should make sure to bring a set of warm clothes or jacket, as well as a general change of clothes and towels in the event someone gets wet. A vessel should always be equipped with blankets, a first aid kit, and other safety items to lower the risk of a fatality in the event of an accident or medical emergency.
So, what can boaters do to keep themselves and their loved ones safe? Plenty! By staying informed about sea and weather conditions, topography, and safety laws, as well as ensuring vessels are properly maintained and equipped with safety features. Boaters should always use caution and refrain from dangerous activities, like speeding and alcohol use.