In 2012 alone, 4,515 boat-related accidents were reported by the United States Coast Guard. Out of these figures, fatalities were estimated at 651, while injuries accounted for around 3,000 people. Property damages were estimated at nearly $40 million. By 2019, there were 2,559 injuries and 613 fatalities.
With the exception of a slight bump in 2017, overall, boating accidents have been on the decline over the past several years. It has been proven that a significant percentage of boating accidents were preventable, but most watercraft operators were negligent. So what factors have contributed to the lower numbers?
A Decline in Boating Accidents
Since 2012, there has been a significant decline in boating accidents. According to PWIA (Personal Watercraft Industry Association), the fall is partly due to new safety reforms in the water transport industry. Recent federal and maritime rules have been put in place to regulate the industry and promote safety.
The new regulations have significantly transformed boating operations with stringent measures that watercraft operators must adhere to. For instance, watercraft operators must be above 16 years, undertake and pass boating training, and be conversant with safety procedures.
These new measures have contributed to a steady decline in boating-related accidents across the states that have implemented them. However, states that have not fully adopted federal and maritime laws to curb accidents at sea are still grappling with increasing numbers of boating accidents.
Types of Boating Accidents
In the United States, waterways are usually crowded around summer when residents from different states fill up these waterways for recreation on the water. Lakes, harbors, rivers, and seas are often full of happy boaters and sailors enjoying a good time in the sun.
Unfortunately, these moments are often interrupted by boating accidents. Several factors, such as human error, natural elements, and vehicle malfunction, contribute to these accidents. Watercrafts often involved in these accidents include sailboats, yachts, airboats, jet skis, kayaks, canoes, cabin cruises, and similar watercraft.
Boat collisions with recreational watercraft are the most common type of boating accidents. In 2015, more than 1,000 accidents were related to boat collisions, which resulted in nearly 50 fatalities and about 700 serious injuries.
The US coast guard reported that lakes and more extensive waterways that can accommodate ships and similar vessels recorded the highest collision cases. Additionally, other common types of boating accidents, such as grounding, collision with marine life, and flooding of craft.
While these accidents are often unpredictable, the risks can be mitigated through strict adherence to boating safety guidelines.
Causes of Boating Accidents
Typically, a high number of boating accidents result from human error, and in most cases, this includes operator negligence or inexperience. However, dangerous weather conditions and hazardous waterways are also major contributors to boating accidents. Below are some of the most common factors which contribute to boating accidents:
- Bad weather
- Violation of navigation rules
- Mechanical hitch
- Operator inattentiveness
- Operator inexperience
- Improper lookout
- Boating under the influence (BUI)
Best Boating Safety Guidelines
Nearly 400 people were reported to have drowned between 2005 and 2014 as a result of boating accidents. An estimated 85% of the victims did not have life jackets. While there are many ways to mitigate boating accidents, wearing a life jacket is the most straightforward and most practical approach to reducing fatality risks in a boating accident.
The second most logical approach entails having extensive knowledge and experience in operating a watercraft. Thirdly, an understanding of the safety measures to curb deaths at sea is essential. Here are a few more practical safety measures:
- Operating a water vehicle within the set speed limits
- Being conscious of marine life
- Being conscious of potential water hazards such as rocks
- Not operating a craft while under the influence of alcohol or similar substances
A boating accident can result in devastating catastrophic injuries. If you or your loved one has been involved in a boating accident and sustained severe injuries, you have a right to file a claim to recover your medical bills, cover your lost wages, and repair or replace any damage to your boat.
According to Adam M. Smallow, personal injury lawyer, the recreational activities we enjoy on the water, whether it’s fishing or waterskiing, all come with a certain level of risk, especially when someone is negligent. Be careful anytime you’re on the water, and follow these tips to stay safe.