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When you head out for a day on the water with your friends and family, boating accidents are likely one of the last things on your mind. Car accidents are more widely discussed, but, although they aren’t as commonly talked about, boating accidents can be just as dangerous and deadly. In fact, hundreds of boat drivers and passengers die in accidents each year, and thousands more are wounded. So, before you enjoy a trip to the lake this summer, know what can cause boating accidents and learn what you can do to stay safe.

According to a study by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the United States Coast Guard, there were 4,158 reported boating accidents in 2015, involving 2,613 injuries and 626 deaths. Not only did these accidents cause emotional and physical harm, they also caused a great bit of financial trouble. The study reports the total cost of boating accident related damages and injuries to be roughly $42 million dollars for that year, alone.

The types of boating accidents can vary, depending on the style of boat and the sort of accident. Open motorboats, personal watercrafts, cabin motorboats, canoes, kayaks, and pontoons are examples of types of boats that get into the most accidents. Open motorboat accidents cause more than double the number of casualties than any other type of boat.

Common types of accidents involve another boat, a collision with a stationary object, flooding, grounding, or an incident with a skier. Most accidents involve collision with another vessel, though the highest number of deaths occur in collisions with a fixed object. Life jackets are also a big factor in the number of deaths in boating accidents. The U.S. Coast Guard reports 428 deaths by drowning in 2015, where 352 were not wearing a life jacket, and only 63 were.

The Top Causes of Fatal Boating Accidents are:

  • Alcohol use
  • Driver inattention
  • Driver inexperience
  • Improper lookout
  • Machinery failure
  • Speeding

While the top contributing factor of boating accidents is driver inattention, the factor that causes the highest number of deaths is alcohol use. While 58 people died in 2015 because of inattention, 91 died because of an alcohol related incident, typically because the boat operator was driving under the influence.

These accidents happen every year, affecting boater operators and passengers alike. While the accidents aren’t always preventable, there are measures you can take to better ensure your safety the next time you operate a boat or ride as a passenger. Follow these safety tips to keep safe on your next boating trip:

1. Drive Sober

Drinking and driving isn’t only dangerous on land. Driving any vehicle, including a boat, while under the influence is dangerous and against the law. Always have a sober driver if you plan on drinking while enjoying a day on the water.

2. Wear a Life Jacket

It is required by law that every boat carries enough lift jackets for every passenger on board, so make sure you uphold this rule. If you do not wish to wear your life jacket during the entire boat ride, although it is recommended, make sure it is nearby. Also be sure that all passengers wear their jackets in rough waters or otherwise dangerous conditions. Children should always wear a life jacket.

3. Know the Rules

Boat operator inexperience is one of the leading causes of accidents, so always be sure your driver knows how to operate the vessel. There are courses new boat owners can take, and how-to guides provided by boat manufacturers, as well as general traffic rules for lakes, oceans and rivers that can be found online.

4. Be Aware

Always watch for other boats and keep an eye out for rocks or debris in the water. Obstacles can hide just below the surface, so keep a lookout near the front of your boat and drive slowly if you aren’t able to see the water clearly. Also, stick to comfortable, responsible speeds that will not cause you to drive recklessly.

Boating can be a great deal of fun, but careless mistakes can lead to high costs, serious injury, and even death. The next time you are planning a day out on the boat, be sure to remember the importance of these safe boating tips and do your part to prevent accidents.

For more information about boating accidents, visit the U.S. Coast Guard’s website, here.

If you are involved in a boating accident that caused personal injury or other damages, you may have a case and could be eligible for compensation. Contact Holladay Law Firm, PLLC today for your free case evaluation!

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