June 26, 2023
personal injury

Boating can be a fun and exhilarating experience, whether it’s for fishing, watersports, or simply cruising on the water. However, it’s important to remember that safety should always come first. A simple mistake or accident can quickly become life-threatening, leading to severe injuries or even fatalities.

Knowing the top boating mistakes can help you take measures to avoid them and practice safe boating in Alabama waters. If you are hurt in a boating incident, the Montgomery boat accident attorneys at The Vance Law Firm Injury Lawyers can help you recover compensation from a negligent operator who caused you damages.

5 Common Boating Mistakes

Boating can be enjoyable, but practicing safety precautions is essential to avoid potential dangers. There were 96 boating accidents in Alabama in 2020, leading to 19 deaths. The following are common mistakes that cause accidents:

1.    Operating Under the Influence

According to the United States Coast Guard, alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boat accidents. In 2020, alcohol played a part in 18% of boating deaths nationwide. It contributed to 296 boating accidents that year, with 115 deaths and 260 injuries.

Boating under the influence of drugs or alcohol can impair judgment, coordination, and reaction times. It is not only dangerous but also illegal under Alabama law if you have a BAC over .08%. Even a small amount of alcohol can affect your ability to operate a boat safely.

2.    Not Wearing a Life Jacket

Life jackets can save lives in emergencies such as collisions or capsized vessels, but many boaters don’t wear them. The USCG reported 534 deaths in 2020 due to drowning, with 450 due to not wearing a life jacket.

Boat operators in Alabama are required to carry enough life jackets on board for every passenger in the vessel. Although adults can choose whether to wear their life jackets, all children under 8 must wear one while in the boat. Breaking this rule can result in deadly consequences and civil liability for the boat operator.

3.    Ignoring Boating Laws or Speed Limits

The USCG 2020 report found that excessive speed, operator inattention, operator inexperience, and navigation rules violations were among the top ten contributing factors to boating accidents. Speeding resulted in 578 accidents, with 409 injuries and 32 deaths. Rule violations resulted in 316 accidents, 26 deaths, and 220 injuries for operators and passengers.

The study also reported that boater safety training played a part in accidents. 77% of fatalities happened on vessels where the operator had not received boater safety education. These numbers indicate that not following boating laws can lead to injuries or death.

4.    Ignoring Weather Conditions

Ignoring weather forecasts can put boaters at risk. The USCG report found that in 2020, weather factors into 244 accidents, with 81 injuries and 42 weather-related deaths. Before venturing out on a vessel, boat operators should check the forecast and avoid going out if there are storms, high winds, or rough waters.

If you are already on the water and notice changing weather conditions, head back to shore immediately. Ensure you know local water conditions, such as currents, tides, and navigational hazards.

5.    Not Maintaining the Boat

Not properly maintaining the boat can lead to mechanical failure and health hazards. Machinery failure factored into 373 accidents nationwide in 2020. Problems with the motor, propellers, and exhaust can lead to collisions or carbon monoxide poisoning, which accounted for 3 deaths in 2020.

The USCG found that 48 accidents in 2020 were due to electrical system failure, 199 to engine failure, and 28 to fuel system failure. Boat operators must maintain these vital components to ensure a safe, enjoyable boating trip.

Putting Safety First: Strategies to Avoid Boating Mistakes

If you plan to take your boat out into Alabama waters this summer, you can take steps to put your safety and the well-being of others first. Consider the following tips before heading out onto the water:

  • Take a boating safety course: A boating safety course can teach you the basics of boating safety, including navigation rules, safety equipment, and emergency procedures. In Alabama, anyone over 14 is required to take a boater safety course take a boater safety course and obtain a vessel license.
  • Prepare a pre-departure checklist: Before heading out on the water, prepare a checklist of safety equipment and procedures to ensure that you have everything you need and that your boat is in good condition.
  • Know the weather forecast: Check the weather forecast before heading out on the water, and be prepared to adjust your plans if conditions are not favorable. Keep an eye on changing weather conditions while on the water and have a radio that can tune into NOAA’s weather updates so you aren’t caught off-guard.
  • Follow manufacturer recommendations: Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for your boat and engine maintenance. Regularly inspect your boat before each use and address any issues immediately.
  • Designate a sober driver: Never operate a boat under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Designate a sober driver before heading out on the water and plan ahead.
  • Wear a life jacket: Always wear a properly fitting life jacket. When worn correctly, these lifejackets should fit snugly and not rise above the wearer’s ears or chin. Children and weak swimmers should wear a life jacket at all times. Consider having Coast Guard-approved jackets for every passenger on your vessel.

Get Help Navigating the Consequences of Dangerous Boating Practices

Dangerous boating practices can have severe consequences, including injuries, property damage, and civil liability. All boat operators in Alabama must understand boating regulations and take their responsibility seriously when operating their vessels. 

By taking preventative measures and avoiding common boating mistakes, boaters can minimize the risk of accidents and injuries on the water. However, accidents can still happen despite your best efforts to prevent them. If you or someone you know has been involved in a boating accident, seek the help of experienced legal professionals.

At The Vance Law Firm Injury Lawyers, we are committed to helping our clients navigate the legal consequences of boating accidents and securing the compensation they deserve. If you need legal assistance following a boating accident, contact The Vance Law Firm Injury Lawyers today for a free consultation.

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