Prevent Boating Accidents This Summer with These Safety Tips
With the start of spring in Florida comes the beginning of boating season. There is nothing like spending a day on the boat enjoying yourself with family and friends. Whether you enjoy deep sea fishing or you spend your time in the freshwater inner tubing, there are many precautions you should take when boating out on the open water.
Just like in a vehicle, a boating accident can happen just as easily. In 2013, the Coast Guard counted 4,062 accidents involving 560 deaths and 2,620 injuries. Of all of the fatalities that occurred, 77% of them were the result of drowning. In an assessment, it was found that 84% of the people that drowned were not wearing a life vest.
The most common types of boating accidents occur because of careless or reckless operation, operator inattention, operator inexperience, machinery failure, and passenger recklessness. Just as a car can serve as a weapon when in the hands of an irresponsible operator, a boat can be the same. Boating should be enjoyable for everyone involved in the leisurely trip but this does not mean that the operator can relax freely, especially if you are participating in water sports during your day on the water.
Just as you commit to following certain driving rules and regulations, make a commitment to good, positive boating practices with every trip. Prevent boating accidents this year by taking the following steps.
- Do not drink and operate a boat. The U.S. Coast Guard reports that alcohol use was the leading contributing factor in 16% of deaths. Spending time on a boat can still be enjoyed without the use of alcohol. If you are going with friends that are of the legal drinking age, consider taking turns being the boat operator.
- Do not speed. Not only is it unsafe, it is illegal to speed. Many of the waters around Florida have very specific speeding laws because of the wildlife and habitats which are unique to this state. Spending puts your boat’s passengers and every other boater in danger.
- Maintain your boat. No matter the age of your boat, you should always clean it thoroughly once you come in for the day. It is also recommended you schedule regular maintenance when you take it out at the start of every season.A well-kept boat is safer. As an owner of a boat, you can be sued for negligence if one of your passengers is hurting in a boating accident. There are free vessel safety checks (VSCs) available for qualified examiners. A VSC can help you identify if you are missing any legally required items.
- Follow life jacket laws. In the state of Florida, every child under the age of six needs to wear a life jacket when the vessel is in motion. Florida has fairly lenient laws compared to other states but we highly recommend taking every necessary precaution involving life jackets. If you are tubing or skiing, the person enjoying the water sport must have a life jacket on. Remember, 84% of drowning fatalities occurred with a person not wearing a life jacket.
- Do not carry too much weight on your boat. Adding people, gear, food, and drinks to your vessel can leave you over the weight limit easily. Just like an overburdened vehicle does not operate well, it affects your boat in the same way. Swamping or capsizing can happen in an overloaded boat.
- Pay attention to the weather. Getting caught in a bad weather pattern may leave you exposed to serious harm, especially if you are in the ocean. If you do get caught in rough weather, you may be risking your life even with access to communications technology.
- Know what to do if there is an emergency. The American Boating Association believes in the saying “know before you go” motto. You should know what to do in the case of an emergency like a fire onboard or the failure of an instrumental piece of boating equipment.
- Always have a marine radio on board. A marine radio is instrumental in emergency communications that may be required of you. You cannot depend on a cell phone signal to communicate when you are in distress. A marine radio is needed for urgent safety messages, operational messages, distress messages, and business messages. In addition, listening to the marine radio can help you identify accidents near you so you can avoid disaster.
- Take a boating safety course. The U.S. Coast Guard reports that 20% of deaths on boats occurred on a vessel where the driver had taken a safety course. There are free online boating safety courses,which meet the specifics of your state’s boating requirements. Knowing how to operate a boat, understanding warning signs, and learning about the inner workings of your vessel makes you a better boat operator. The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary offers boating courses from beginner to advanced if you are looking for an in-person class.
- Do not allow people to walk around while the boat is in motion. Making everyone stay seated allows you to drive safely and prevent injuries that can be caused when someone loses their center of gravity. Seated passengers are safer passengers.
- Don’t allow people to ride on the bow of the boat. The back of your boat is not designed for seating. If you allow people to sit on the bow while in motion, you risk them falling, interrupt the balance of the vessel, and put them dangerously close to the motor.
You can prevent boating accidents with a few safety precautions. As you start to make these precautions a part of your regular boating routine, it will be effortless and accepted. Never expose yourself and your loved ones to preventable risks while boating.
If you or someone you know was injured as a result of recreational boating, protect yourself by contacting a Boca Raton personal injury attorney to help. Glotzer and Kobren specialize in every type of personal injury case, including boating accidents.
If you believe you have a case, schedule a free consultation with a qualified attorney by phone at (561) 361-8677 or online at www.glotzerlaw.com. We serve clients in Boca Raton and the surrounding areas.
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