U.S. Coast Guard Reports Increase in Number of Recreational Boating Fatalities

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

Maritime safety has been a hot topic of debate recently after the Carnival Triumph fire accident left over 4,000 passengers and crew stranded at sea in unsanitary conditions. But while all fingers seem to be pointed at cruise lines for lacking the proper amount of safety features and regulations to protect those onboard, the United States Coast Guard’s reports on boating safety show that maritime safety is something that needs to be heavily examined across all fields – boating, cruising and shipping.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard’s 2011 Recreational Boating Statistics, the number of fatal boating accidents increased from the previous year, revealing the dire need to improve safety regulations for all maritime vessel operators. The report showed that in 2010, a total of 4,604 boating accidents took place resulting in 672 fatalities. In 2011, however, there were 4,588 recreational boating accidents (slightly fewer), but a total of 758 deaths, representing a whopping 12.8 percent increase in the number of boating-related fatalities.

The Coast Guard’s report explained that the majority of the fatalities (70 percent) were the result of drowning. The alarming revelation was that 84 percent of victims who drowned were not wearing life jackets, showing the blatant disregard for maritime safety regulations.

Only 11 percent of the deaths occurred on vessels that were piloted by operators who had received boating safety instruction and just 7 percent of the fatalities occurred on vessels where the operator had received boating safety instruction from a NASBLA-approved course provider. The National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) is national nonprofit organization that aims to increase awareness of boating safety and reduce the number of accidents and fatalities.

The report went on to explain that nearly half of fatal boating accidents involved motorboats (47 percent), 19 percent involved personal watercrafts like jet skis, and 14 percent resulted from cabin motorboat accidents. The leading cause of boating accident fatalities was alcohol, which comes as no surprise. In 2011, 125 people lost their lives in boating accidents because the operator of the vessel was under the influence of alcohol.

Other factors that contributed to the maritime deaths were failure by the boat operator to pay attention to their surroundings, inexperience, excessive speeding, and mechanical failure.

Despite the many studies and evidence that suggests that just one alcoholic beverage can impair judgment, boaters continue to place their lives at risk – as well as those of innocent bystanders – over the consumption of alcohol. Although boaters may not think alcohol can affect them while they are out on the open waters, according to the Coast Guard, a boat operator can become impaired much quicker than a driver on land. The motion of the waves, the heat, noises, wind and other environmental factors all contribute to the accelerated intoxication of boaters.

Penalties for boating under the influence (BUI) are also extremely serious. Those found guilty can face expensive fines, may lose their license and can spend years in jail especially if the accident resulted in a fatality.

The dangers of boating under the influence and other maritime safety violations are especially evident when the victim is a child. The death of 11-year-old Kile Glover, the stepson of R&B singer Usher, last summer on Lake Lanier rocked the Georgia community, leading the state’s legislators to introduce a bill that would improve boating safety.

After hearing testimony from industry leaders and Tameka Raymond, Glover’s mother, the Natural Resources and the Environmental Committee voted unanimously to pass the bill. The following are just some of the several safety improving provisions contained in the bill:

  • Anyone born on or after Jan. 1, 1998 must complete a boater education program
  • Those who rent or lease a personal watercraft must undergo a safety briefing
  • The legal blood alcohol limit for adults operating boats and personal watercrafts will be reduced from 0.10 to 0.08 percent, the legal limit for automobile drivers

Glover was killed after suffering a brain injury when he was run over by a jet ski last year. Jeffrey Hubbard, a family friend, was trying to splash Glover and a friend who were riding in an inner tube that was being pulled by a pontoon boat when the boating accident occurred. Hubbard is expected to appear in court soon, but nothing can bring Glover back.

Improving maritime safety for boaters is critical, but unfortunately, there will always be boaters that disregard BUI laws or operate their vessels without training or regard to their surroundings. Anytime someone is injured or killed in a boating accident, victims and their loved ones have a right to seek legal help to file a case and protect their rights – especially if the accident was caused by an intoxicated boater.

If you or someone you love was the victim of someone’s maritime negligence, turn to our boating accident lawyers today to see how we can help you obtain justice for your pain and suffering. Our attorneys have over 100 years of combined experience in maritime law and have protected the rights of victims who have been hurt or killed because of negligent boat operators.

Call us today to schedule a consultation and let us put our expertise to work for you.

Photo Credits:

Top Right: Boat Crash – pdnphotooftheday.com
Bottom Right: Kile Glover Funeral – globalgrind.com