According to a report by the U.S. Coast Guard, recreational boating deaths decreased from 758 in 2011 to 651 in 2012, a decrease of over 14 percent. Injuries from boating accidents also decreased from 3,081 in 2011 to 3,000 in 2012, a decrease of 2.6 percent. The overall fatality rate for 2012 was 5.4 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels, which was a 12.9 percent decrease from 2011.
Despite the decrease in recreational boating accidents, a number of common safety issues continue to lead to most injuries and deaths. Alcohol remains a contributing factor in many accidents. The U.S. Coast Guard reported alcohol was a contributing factor in 17 percent of deaths. Operator inattention, inexperience, machinery failure, excessive speed, and improper lookout ranked as the top five contributing factors in recreational boating deaths. Nearly 71 percent of the recreational boating deaths involved drowning of victims and 84 percent of the victims were not wearing life jackets.
As recreational boating season approaches this year, it is important to remember basic boating safety rules to keep your family and friends safe out on the water. You should not drink alcohol while operating a recreational boat and should make certain that passengers are not intoxicated. Everyone on the vessel should wear a life jacket. Before backing a vessel, you should make certain that the swim platform and the area behind the boat is clear of passengers and objects. Keep a proper lookout while the vessel is moving and don’t exceed a safe speed for the conditions. Although operating a recreational boat is fun, it can also be dangerous and operators need to constantly be vigilant of important safety rules to prevent injuries and deaths to passengers, swimmers, and other people using the water.
As lawyers representing people seriously injured in recreational boating accidents, we understand that even split-second errors can lead to life-long injuries and even deaths. If you allow your teens to operate your recreational boat, make certain that they understand and follow basic boating safety rules. Teen drinking and excessive speed are common causes of boating accidents. Understanding and following basic recreational boating rules would eliminate most of the needless injuries that we see in our practice.
Under maritime law, the operator of a vessel has a duty to exercise reasonable care to avoid causing injury to passengers, swimmers, or other people using the water. When pursuing claims for injured persons, we begin our investigation with the basic recreational boating rules and see whether those rules were violated in a specific case. In most cases, accidents are totally avoidable and are the product of a violation of a basic safety rule. When vessel operators violate basic recreational boating safety rules and cause serious injuries or deaths, we believe it is important to hold them accountable for the harm that they cause from these violations. We hope by holding violators of basic boating safety rules accountable, that we can improve overall boating safety and obtain compensation for the serious injuries that these incidents cause.