Top Contributing Factors in Boating and Watercraft Accidents

Mar 24

One may be led to think that boating is the least risky of all recreational activities because even if a person were to fall overboard, how will landing in water hurt him or her. On the contrary, there are proper safety procedures that boat operators and passengers need to observe, otherwise, they may find themselves in a really bad situation.

One important task of the U.S. Coast Guard is to prepare a yearly statistical record which should contain all boating accidents in the US and the most common causes of these accidents. Based on US Coast Guard’s 2014 record, of the 11,804,002 recreational vessels registered in the US in 2014, about 4,064 were involved in recreational boating accidents. These accidents, in turn, resulted to 2,678 injuries and 610 deaths. The top five contributing factors in accidents were operator inattention, improper lookout, operator inexperience, excessive speed and machinery failure. With regard to fatal accidents, the leading known contributing factor was alcohol.

Just like drunk-driving, boating under the influence (BUI) is equally dangerous. Due to this, a 0.08% blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit is imposed by all states on boat operators. While this BAC limit is just the same as the limit imposed on car drivers, different studies have shown that those who consume alcohol while on sea can be impaired much faster than car drivers due to the type of environment where they are situated as well as the conditions they are exposed to. These conditions include: the boat’s continuous motion and vibration; sea water spray or mist on their faces and bodies; and, the ocean breeze, sun and engine noise. All these plus alcohol and/or illegal drugs can easily affect the vision, coordination, balance, and judgment of all boat passengers. (The BAC limit applies to operators of open motorboats, canoes, kayaks, rowboats and all other water vessels (whether local or foreign) that are sailing on US territorial waters.

When a boating or watercraft accident does occur, many lawyers hired by those who are victims in the accident fail to represent their clients well due to the intricacies of the Maritime law which they are not familiar with. According to the Charleston personal injury attorneys of Clawson & Staubes, LLC: Injury Group, when representing and defending a victim in a boating or watercraft accident, a lawyer needs to be familiar with the unique aspects of general maritime law, like “joint and several liability, pure comparative negligence, seaworthiness doctrine, and pre-judgment interest.” Maritime law, also known as Admiralty law, differs from the laws governing motor vehicle or car accidents. Thus, when seeking representation in an accident that happened at sea, victims should make sure that they are to be represented by someone who is familiar and experienced in the said field of law.

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