The allure of shimmering water and a gentle, warm breeze can prove irresistible as the sun gleams down on Alabama’s Gulf Coast. Boating is a beloved pastime for locals and visitors, offering an idyllic escape from everyday life.
However, this enjoyable activity isn’t without its share of risks. According to the United States Coast Guard, Alabama had 96 boating accidents in 2020, resulting in 19 deaths. Understanding common boating risks and how to avoid an accident can help you stay safe when operating a vessel in Alabama Gulf Coast waters.
Understanding Gulf Coast Boating Hazards
The Gulf Coast is home to a range of conditions that can pose challenges to even seasoned boaters. Strong currents, sudden weather changes, crowded waterways, and hidden underwater hazards, like rock and sand bars, can all create unexpected dangers.
Popular boating areas like Perdido Pass in Orange Beach and the Gulf Shores regions often become congested, making collisions more likely. The Gulf’s unpredictable weather can turn a peaceful afternoon into a tragic ordeal, making it crucial to check weather conditions and understand the area’s beach flag warning system to stay safe.
Boat Maintenance: Ensuring a Safe Vessel
An essential element of boating safety is maintaining and checking your vessel and equipment before each outing. This ensures your boat is in working order and you have the required equipment per Alabama law.
- Inspect equipment: Before heading out, inspect all equipment to ensure it works properly. For example, examine your boat for any signs of damage or wear, such as hull cracks, loose fittings, or corrosion. Check that all navigation lights function correctly and that your anchor, ropes, and docking equipment are in good condition and ready for use.
- Check the engine: Check your boat’s engine, including the fuel system, for any leaks or loose connections, and ensure you have enough fuel for your planned outing. Inspect the propeller for any damage or entanglements, as a damaged propeller can cause poor performance or a breakdown.
- Review safety gear: Ensure that all passengers have access to USCG-approved life jackets that fit properly and are in good condition, with all buckles and straps functioning correctly. Other essential safety gear includes a fire extinguisher, a throwable flotation device, a first aid kit, and distress signals.
Stay Informed and Observe Rules
Being a responsible boater means staying informed of weather conditions and observing Alabama’s waterway rules. You can help prevent a boating accident by doing the following:
- Stay informed on weather conditions: The Gulf Coast’s weather can shift rapidly, transforming a sunny sky into a thunderstorm in minutes. Keep a watchful eye on weather updates from reliable sources to alert you to weather changes. You can sign up for daily beach conditions and flag warnings by phone or automated text system or check the National Weather Service updates.
- Follow navigational rules: On crowded waterways, always observe navigational rules. These are the traffic laws of the water, helping to manage the movement of boats and prevent collisions. Familiarize yourself with Alabama guidelines on the right-of-way, safe speed, and actions to take when encountering other vessels.
- Maintain a safe speed: Always maintain a safe speed to prevent accidents and ensure control. Adhere to posted speed limits and adjust your momentum based on the water and weather conditions. A safe speed allows for better maneuverability, reduces the risk of collisions, and gives you ample time to react to potential hazards.
- Wear a life jacket: Wearing a life jacket is essential for boating safety. It provides buoyancy and can save your life in an accident or unexpected immersion. Even experienced swimmers should wear a properly fitting lifejacket, especially in rough waters or during activities like water sports or offshore boating.
- Don’t drive while intoxicated: Driving a boat under the influence of drugs or alcohol is illegal and dangerous. Alcohol affects judgment, coordination, and reaction time, increasing the risk of accidents. Designate a sober driver or arrange for alternate transportation if you plan on consuming alcohol. Prioritizing sobriety ensures the safety of everyone on board.
What to Do if You are in a Boating Accident
If the worst happens and you are involved in a boating accident, you can take steps to protect your health and your rights. After a boating accident, do the following:
- Seek medical attention: Check yourself and others involved in the accident for injuries. Administer first aid if necessary and move to a safe location, away from further danger. Seek
- Report the incident: Contact the local Coast Guard, marine police, or emergency services to report the accident. Provide them with essential details such as location, number of people involved, and the nature of the accident. Report the incident within 10 days of the accident, or if the accident results in a serious injury, death, disappearance, or more than $2,000 in damages, report to the USCG within 48 hours.
- Speak with an attorney: After a boating collision, speak with an Alabama boating accident lawyer from The Vance Law Firm Injury Lawyers, who can guide you through the legal process and protect your rights. Our lawyers can help you gather evidence and prove liability to potentially receive compensation for your damages.
Get the Legal Help You Need After a Boating Accident
At The Vance Law Firm Injury Lawyers, we understand that the aftermath of an accident can be overwhelming. Our attorneys specialize in helping victims of boating accidents in Alabama navigate the process of seeking compensation for their injuries.
If you’re ready to take the next step in your boating accident case and pursue a settlement from a negligent party, contact us today. We offer a free initial consultation to help you understand your rights and decide your next legal steps.