Boating Accidents: Common Causes
Boating accidents are largely due to negligence. But even responsible boaters can fall victim to boating accidents due to circumstances beyond their control.
Like car accidents, each year people are seriously injured or killed in collisions while boating. Unlike car accidents, boating accidents include running aground and people falling overboard. According to United States Coast Guard data, here are (in no particular order) some of the most common causes of boating accidents.
“Don’t drink and drive” doesn’t just apply to automobiles. Drinking alcohol while boating is not only one of the most common causes of boat accidents, it’s also the most preventable. Alcohol consumption slows reaction times and impairs decision-making abilities, including excessive speeding. It’s pretty straightforward: don’t drink if you’re driving a boat.
Operator Error from Inexperience
Inexperienced people driving boats they have no business operating is way too common a cause of boating accidents. Boats aren’t as easy to pilot as they look, especially for rookies who think they know what they’re doing. Excessive speeding also results from inexperience as well as alcohol consumption. Every boat operator needs to know speed limits, as well as boating basics, maritime and local laws, navigation equipment, and especially how to handle emergency situations.
Operator Error from Lack of Attention
This one happens to rookies and seasoned boaters alike. Not paying attention to surroundings like markers, buoys, rocks, sandbars, other boats, etc. is another common way to cause an accident. Boat operators need to be alert (and sober) at all times to anything and everything in their surroundings, especially the weather. Speaking of weather …
Ignoring the Weather
Ignoring weather updates — which are now widely available on everything from TV, satellite radios, smartphone apps and the Internet itself — is sadly one of the most common and avoidable causes of boating accidents. While weather can be unpredictable and unexpectedly take a turn for the worse, boat operators simply ignoring the weather altogether leads to way too many preventable accidents. Bad weather can create dangerous boating conditions like high winds, hazardous waters and impaired visibility.
We mentioned excessive speeding as a result of operator error and intoxication, but speeding in general is a leading cause of boating accidents. Excess speeding makes it harder to control a boat, leading to collisions, capsizing, and powerful wakes that can cause injuries to pilots, passengers and to other watercraft alike.
Every captain should have one or two people onboard to serve as designated lookouts at all times while riding a boat. Boating accidents occur too often when the lookouts aren’t paying attention to their surroundings, or there are simply no lookouts to speak of. The lookout is basically a co-pilot that needs to stay just as alert as the captain to see, hear and warn about dangers, especially collisions with other boats.
It’s no secret that boats and their engines require regular maintenance. Lack of maintenance leads to engine parts failing, which in turn leads to boating accidents. Boaters who don’t inspect and maintain their boats regularly often end up in (once again) preventable accidents. But even defective equipment and machinery can cause accidents through no fault of boat owners who were diligent with the upkeep. Machinery and equipment failure includes everything associated with the motor, as well as failing electronics and steering.
As already mentioned, accidents can happen to seasoned and inexperienced boaters alike, so it goes without saying that preparation is the key. When loading a boat, have all the proper safety and survival equipment like life jackets and personal flotation devices, medical supplies, audio and visual distress signals, etc.
Make sure you have plenty of extra fuel to prevent getting stranded. Calculate how much fuel you need for the trip, and then bring along more than what you calculated just in case. Pack extra tools and supplies and spare parts too in case something fails along the way. Inspect the motor, the battery, the propellers, the steering system, the bilge pump, and anything else that could potentially fail and create an emergency situation.
Seek Boating Accident Help
Always seek immediate medical attention after a boating accident, no matter how minor you may think the incident was. Make sure to immediately contact the authorities as well as medical professionals, your insurance company and a lawyer if need be.