With summer approaching and boating on the horizon, it’s time to brush up on your boating safety skills.
After all, if you want to keep your loved ones safe and prevent boat accidents, you need to know what you’re doing. And just as important, you’ll learn how to spot someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing.
There are five top contributing causes in boating accidents, according to the U.S. Coastguard. These include improper lookout, operator inexperience, excessive speed, alcohol misuse, and operator inattention.
Here, we’ll break down each one in-depth to see how you can keep your loved ones safe; and what to do if someone else puts them in danger.
- Alcohol Misuse
Even though it causes the fewest number of recorded accidents of the accident categories listed here, alcohol usage accounted for over 20 percent of boating deaths in 2019.
When you’re enjoying a wonderful day on the ocean or lake with your pals, you’re likely to want to have a drink and relax. However, just as you should never drink and drive, you should also never drink and boat.
In both circumstances, you’re driving a car and are responsible for the lives of others. And you have no business taking that responsibility if you’re disabled.
Consider this: you wouldn’t want your children to ride in a car with someone who has been drinking, so why let them do the same in a boat?
- Excessive Speed
While flying through the ocean is thrilling, it reduces the time you have to react swiftly.
Just as you should slow down on the roadway to drive safely, you should also slow down on the water to give yourself enough time to react.
Consider it a waterborne version of defensive driving. A good tip is to drive as though others around you will make the worst possible decision and plan well. Plus, we recommend you operate your boat slower and with caution, more than you think you need to.
- Operator Inexperience
Boat operators who are inexperienced pose a considerable risk to anyone on the water around them.
Mistakes are inevitable when you’re fresh to anything. It’s all part of the process of learning. However, while driving a large motorized vehicle, those mistakes might have disastrous effects.
An inexperienced boater should not be allowed to operate a vessel without the supervision of a more experienced boat operator. That person can take control in the event of a mishap.
Moreover, inexperienced operators should be given more assistance than usual, reducing the likelihood of errors. In general, a new boater should avoid operating a boat on congested days until they are confident in their ability to do so.
- Improper Lookout
Improper lookout is a type of operator inattention, which we’ll expand on later.
When operating a boat, you must be aware of a variety of factors simultaneously. Look out for people swimming, water skiing, kayaking, and dangerous objects under the water.
Not all of them will be visible, which is why you must use extreme caution when on the water. The fact that the water looks to be open does not always imply that it is.
Good recommended practice is to have another person on the boat with you to keep an eye on things. After all, you must concentrate on steering the boat. It will be easier to see hazards you might otherwise overlook if you have a dedicated lookout for monitoring the water from a different perspective.
- Operator Inattention
Operator inattention is the leading cause of boating accidents, accounting for 546 accidents, 296 injuries, and 36 deaths in 2019, according to the U.S. Coastguard.
Operating a boat, like any other vehicle, entails a significant amount of responsibility. You are accountable for the lives of persons on your boat and those in the water around you.
Also, because boating accidents happen on the water, you’re at serious risk of being unable to breathe or return to dry land.
When operating your boat, you should exercise the same level of caution and attention as you would when driving with your children in a car. If someone else were in charge of a boat with your kids on board, you’d want them to be extremely cautious.
And since this is such an essential factor to consider when boating, here are some handy tips to take note of.
Don’t Use Your Phone
Talking, texting, social media posting, and sending emails are examples of boat operators not paying attention to their responsibilities on the water.
Even hands-free discussions can divert your focus away from the water, perhaps resulting in a serious disaster.
And this lack of concentration while boating is even more perilous than in a car since conditions can change in a matter of minutes.
So with all these extra factors to consider at play, it’s arguably even more important to not use your phone when boating than if you were in a car.
Eat Before Leaving
Again, similar to the phone issue, eating while driving a boat doesn’t make sense. With one hand on the wheel, you’ll have limited control of your vessel, and food can be very distracting at times.
Instead, eat before you leave on your boat trip, or wait till you’re docked or anchored. Or, if there’s another experienced operator on board, swap over when you need to eat.
Delegate When You Can
Have someone else check the instruments or equipment onboard if you need to.
Or switch over with another experienced operator if you want to do things like taking pictures, chatting to other boaters nearby, or adjusting your music playlist.
Plan Your Trip Properly
Get comfortable with your GPS, so you don’t have to worry about steering with your head down while trying to figure out how to switch screens while on the water.
You should be able to shift your hand between the throttle and the steering wheel without looking down, and you should be able to feel the trim switch, the running lights, and the bilge switch.
Have You Had a Recent Boat Accident?
We should mention that getting the right legal representation is paramount if you have experienced a recent boat accident.
We recommend kemprugegreen.com for a top boat accident lawyer.
The Top Causes of Boat Accidents Explained
Unlike cars on the highway, boaters don’t have a set path to follow. Therefore they can dangerously zigzag all over the water. Plus, boats go at varying speeds and come in a wide range of sizes.
So remember, with all these factors at play, it’s arguable that you need to be much more cautious in a boat than in a car to prevent boat accidents from happening.
Thanks for checking in, and enjoy your next boat outing! For more interesting reads, please check out our blog.