Our maritime lawyers would like to take this moment to wish everyone a happy and safe 4th of July. Independence Day is an incredible holiday. After all, it celebrates the birth of our nation. Many of us will enjoy the holiday at home, while some of us may go out and enjoy the great outdoors. And naturally, since the holiday falls during summertime, some of the most popular activities on the 4th of July involve the water, including boating, water skiing, parasailing and kayaking.
Water activities are a lot of fun, especially on a holiday like the 4th, when beaches and lakes are packed with people of all ages enjoying the day with their loved ones. Of course, many will be enjoying alcohol and fireworks as well. Unfortunately, when you combine heavy marine traffic, drinking and fireworks, sometimes things can get out of hand. It’s important to keep safety in mind while celebrating, especially if your plans involve water sports and activities.
Statistics show that more boating accidents occur on Independence Day than any other holiday. Waterways are going to be extremely crowded, and it can be tempting to overcrowd vessels. Each state has specific maritime laws that govern water activities, including how fast vessels and Jet Skis can be operated, the minimum age of operators, how many people can ride on a boat or watercraft, etc. There are also laws regarding alcohol consumption, which can lead to boaters and watercraft operators getting charged with Boating Under the Influence (BUI).
Some people may not be aware of the fact that there are laws that govern alcohol consumption on waterways, just as there are regulations for consuming alcohol while operating a motor vehicle on land. Through not all state laws impose strict laws as far as punishment for those found guilty of BUI, it’s important to refrain from any alcohol consumption if you are planning on operating a watercraft or vessel.
Alcohol can impair those on the water much faster than those on land for several reasons. The motion of the waves, the heat and wind all play a role in the rate at which an individual becomes intoxicated. Just one drink while out on the open waters can be enough to impair judgment and lead to boating or Jet Ski accidents. Individuals operating a vessel or watercraft must be able to react quickly, especially when waterway traffic is high. One drink can cause an operator to speed, miss important safety signals and crash into other boaters, watercraft operators and especially individuals who are swimming or floating on an inner tube.
Even for those who are not consuming alcohol, it’s important to stay alert and aware of surroundings because accidents can happen in the blink of an eye – even to the most careful of beach and lake-goers. If you do decide to have a drink or two, please take the time to ensure there are designated sober operators around you and please remember to wear a lifejacket at all times while in the water. Lifejackets can prevent you from drowning, especially if you become injured or impaired while in open waters. Make sure everyone in your party is wearing a lifejacket, especially young children. If you are enjoying the holiday at the pool, please make sure young children have floatation devices and that an adult is present at all times monitoring the area.
Aside from refraining from alcohol consumption, it’s also important to abide by other maritime laws during the holiday weekend. Please ensure you are operating your vessel or watercraft at an acceptable speed and maintain a safe distance between your craft and those of others, especially if there are people swimming, floating or water skiing in your area.
And while the 4th of July is known for fireworks, please make sure you do not set any fireworks off on your vessel or bring your vessel near areas where fireworks are being set off. This may lead to a fire onboard your boat and serious – if not fatal – injuries. The same goes for barbequing. If you are going to barbeque on your boat, please make sure you have a fire extinguisher readily available in case of an emergency.
These are just a few simple steps you can take to protect yourself, your loved ones and all others enjoying Independence Day from getting injured. Remember, in the event that you or a loved one are injured in the open waters, you have a right to contact an attorney for assistance. If you were injured in an accident involving a motor boat, consult with an experienced boating accident attorney who can evaluate your case and determine if you have a viable claim. If the injury involves a watercraft, contact a Jet Ski accident lawyer to discuss your legal options and protect your rights.