Of all boating personal injuries, few are more devastating, graphic, or deadly, as propeller injuries. Yet, with proper precautions, most propeller injuries can be easily preventable. The U.S. Coast Guard recently released some helpful tips to help you and your loved ones avoid propeller injuries this boating season.
Many propeller injuries occur when passengers are swimming in the water around the boat. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, placing your boat in neutral while people are swimming in the water is not safe. Although most gear shifts have a button to prevent the shift from being accidentally bumped into gear, these buttons have failed, resulting in tragic accidents when people were swimming in the water near the boat’s propeller. While it is safest to turn off the engine, keeping the key in the ignition can result in a situation where the captain may fail to look at the transom before starting the boat. If there are swimmers in the water, they can get seriously injured or killed when the boat is switched on suddenly.
The U.S. Coast Guard recommends that boaters store their keys near the boat’s transom. This way, before turning on the boat, the captain will have an opportunity to check the water one last time to make sure everyone is on board.
While swimming near a boat can pose hazards, individuals can be at risk while a boat is in motion if the captain isn’t careful. Passengers should always be inside the boat and securely seated. If a passenger is riding your boat for the first time, he or she may not be aware of the risk of falling off when the boat bounces due to waves or high wake. Boaters can keep their passengers safe by moving more slowly during high wake conditions to reduce the risk of a passenger accidentally falling off.
Boaters should also always stay at least 100 feet away from any diver down flags in rivers, inlets, or navigation channels, and they should stay 300 feet away from diver down flags in any other waterway. Boaters should always slow down when they see a diver down flag in the water. Divers, snorkelers, and swimmers can get swept away from their flags by currents and they may not always stay within the legal distance of their flag. Knowing common snorkel, diving, and swimming areas and taking proper safety precautions around them can prevent serious personal injuries to swimmers or divers.
Retrieving a person from the water is another time when propeller injuries are common. If you need to pick up a swimmer, water-skier, or someone who has fallen overboard, you should never reverse your engine and back toward the person. You put them at risk of getting seriously injured.
Finally, alcohol and boating don’t mix. As our boating accident lawyers can tell you, many preventable accidents occurred because the captain was drinking and his or her judgment was affected. Accidents that wouldn’t have otherwise taken place occurred due to the boater’s poor decision to drink and boat.
By following these easy tips, you can decrease your chances of suffering a serious tragedy while out in open waters.