Can Boating Accidents Be Prevented with Satellite Tracking Devices?

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A
Boating Accident Lawyers
Photo Credit: S.J. de Waard / CC-BY-SA-3.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)

As our boating accident lawyers know all too well, far too many individuals who experience an injury or death in open waters never obtain the justice they deserve. Sadly, many tragedies that involve boats and personal water crafts stem from a lack of safety and could have been prevented. Often, lack of safety is associated with someone’s negligent actions, but sometimes, it is related to a boater’s failure to have proper navigation and tracking equipment on their vessels – something the boater might not even realize they lack.

Lack of navigation and tracking equipment on vessels is something that a Florida man who lost his son at sea is fighting to change. Blu Stephanos, the father of one of the boys who went missing following a boating accident off the Florida coast earlier this year, decided to take a stand in order to help prevent similar boating accidents. Stephanos went to Tallahassee to support legislation that many say could increase boating safety.

According to ABC News, the legislation would encourage boaters to use satellite tracking devices on their recreational boats. Stephanos believes that such a device might have been able to save his son. Many times, boaters in distress are unable to call for help, but a locator device can make it easier for search and rescue teams to find lost boats.

The law would incentivize the purchase of the special locator devices by discounting boat licenses for those who buy them. The devices, like the Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon for example, can be pricey, but many believe that the new legislation could raise awareness of the device’s ability to save lives, and therefore, encourage boaters to purchase them.

Locator devices, which must be registered with the Coast Guard, can be life-saving because if a boat capsizes, the device will send out a signal to the CG letting emergency crews know the vessel is in distress. Some beacons are activated when they are immersed in water, while other beacons must be activated by being removed from their brackets. Many of the devices will be released from the bracket if a boat were to take on water. Others can also be manually activated.

However, it’s also important to ensure the device is current and working properly. If you already have a tracking device on your boat, it might be a good idea to check with the NOAA website to make sure that yours hasn’t been phased out, as older devices may not be as effective. Furthermore, Class A, B, and S beacons are no longer allowed to be sold in the U.S., and some beacons are actually prohibited from being used.

Will the proposed law prevent tragedies at sea? Only time will tell. They can certainly help increase the chances that a boating accident victim will be rescued, however, these devices aren’t the only method of protection boaters should rely on.

Locator devices only trigger rescue efforts after an accident or sinking has taken place. The best way to protect yourself and your loved ones is to prevent a sinking or accident from happening in the first place by taking boater education courses, routinely checking a vessel for any equipment malfunctions, and by employing other boating safety strategies like wearing a life jacket, maintaining prudent speeds, and refraining from alcohol consumption while on a vessel.