Enjoy the 4th of July Safely

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

American flagEach boating accident attorney at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. would like to wish all our readers a very Happy 4th of July, but above all, we wish everyone a very SAFE holiday. The 4th of July is a wonderful holiday where we get to celebrate the birth of our nation, and many people like to do so by enjoying water activities, barbequing, drinking, and fireworks. Unfortunately, combining all of these methods together safely is harder than one would think, so it is very important to remember not to get too carried away with the festivities so that you and your loved ones can enjoy the holiday accident-free.

Tomorrow, especially here in Miami where our firm is located, residents are going to crowd beaches and take part in various water-related activities, including boating, Jet Skiing and parasailing, to mention just a few. Everyone has their preference, but it is imperative everyone understand that there are certain maritime laws to abide by that are in place to protect beach and lake-goers from harm. Statistics show that more boating accidents occur on the 4th of July than any other holiday. Waterways will be extremely crowded and many vessels will have more than the safe number of people on board. Please remember that unless you have a brand new boat, chances are that the number of people that your boat placard says is a safe load for your boat no longer is, as the weight of the average American has increased over the years to the point that recently, the Coast Guard issued new weight limits based on this fact. In addition, drinking , barbequing and fireworks are much more dangerous on a floating vessel than on firm land.

No matter what state you live in, there are specific maritime laws that govern how fast a motor boat can be operated, the minimum age for operating a vessel or personal water craft, as well as laws regarding Boating Under the Influence (BUI). Not all state laws are strict when it comes to punishing those who have been found guilty of operating a motorized vessel while under the influence of alcohol, but regardless of the consequences your state may impose, for you and your loved ones’ well-being, it is wise to refrain from any alcohol consumption while manning the helm of a vessel or while participating in water activities.

Just like alcohol can impair a motor vehicle driver’s judgment and coordination on land, it reduces the inhibition of boaters and other water fans even more so. Since most water-related activities take place during the day when weather is warm, the heat from the outdoors can exacerbate the level of intoxication for boaters and PWC users, causing them to become more quickly and seriously inebriated than they might think. The heat, coupled with the waves, and winds, contributes to a much faster rate at of dehydration which in turn leads to quicker intoxication.

When boaters and other water lovers are intoxicated and operate vessels and other motorized water equipment, accidents can – and do – happen. According to the Coast Guard’s 2011 Recreational Boating Statistics report, the number of boating accident fatalities have increased and the majority of these incidents were caused by intoxicated operators. Accidents can happen to even the most careful of beach and lake-goers, but when alcohol is involved, the boating accident rate increases drastically. If you do decide to have a drink or two, please make sure you are surrounded by designated sober operators and do not forget to wear a lifejacket. Lifejackets can save you from drowning, especially if you become seriously injured and are unable to swim to safety. Make sure everyone in your party is wearing them, especially young children.

The Coast Guard’s report explains that in 2011, 125 people lost their lives because of an intoxicated boat operator.  These accidents are 100% preventable, so it’s important all water-goers understand the risks of drinking and operating a vessel or personal water craft while under the influence. It is especially important to refrain from this dangerous practice during the 4th of July holiday since many more people will be out on the waters.

Aside from alcohol, it’s also important to abide by other maritime regulations during this holiday weekend. Operate your vessel or PWC at an acceptable speed and keep a safe distance between your water craft and those of others. Keep an even greater distance between your craft and people who are water skiing, swimming or floating in inner tubes because if your craft crashes into an unprotected person, the injuries that may result can be fatal.

In short, here are a few tips each boating accident lawyer at our firm recommends in order to enjoy water activities safety during the 4th of July holiday:

  1. Don’t drink and operate a water craft.
  2. Always wear a lifejacket.
  3. Operate vessels and water crafts at a safe speed
  4. Make sure those operating the crafts are experienced and familiar with the vessel they are operating.
  5. Maintain a safe distance between your vessel or PWC and other vessels and people.
  6. Refrain from engaging in reckless behavior in the open waters (including performing stunts on your water craft or floating behind the exhaust of the engines and the generator).
  7. Do not overload your boat with people or other things that lowers your vessels floatation line below where it is designated to be at ( This is usually demarked on most boat by a colored strip and on PWC by the joint of the lower and upper portion of the vessel or a similar demarcation ).
  8. Do not set off fire works from your vessel or allow your vessel to be in the danger zone of those setting of fireworks.
  9. If you are going to barbeque on your vessel with propane or charcoal make sure to place the barbeque on the outside of the vessel and have a fire extinguisher at the ready just in case.
  10. If you are in a group of vessel’s and to get into the water make sure all in the group have their engines turned off and that no one turns an engine on while swimmers are within range of the propellers.

By following these tips, you can protect yourself, your loved ones and all others enjoying the 4th of July from getting hurt in a boating accident.