Most people view Memorial Day Weekend as the beginning of the season, whether for boating, the beach, etc. Now that this weekend has passed and with many other summer holidays just around the corner, it’s important to keep in mind that holidays and weekends can mean increased boat traffic and with increased boat traffic comes the increased risk for accidents. After the weekend there were news stories from all over the U.S. reporting on accidents that occurred on the water, most of which could have been avoided!
There is evidence that boating activity increased during the pandemic, with increases in boat sales, insurance policies taken out, insurance claims, and calls for towing assistance. Every year the US Coast Guard compiles statistics on reported boating accidents. In 2020 there were 5,265 accidents and 767 deaths. The top 10 known primary causes of boating accidents in 2020 were as follows:
- Improper lookout
- Operator inattention
- Operator inexperienced
- Excessive speed
- Navigation rules violation
- Machinery failure
- Alcohol use
- Hazardous waters
- Force of wave/wake
As you can see, almost all of those causes are things that could have been prevented! Whether you are going out for a joy ride, recreational activities such as water skiing or tubing, or just traveling from one place to another you should always put the safety of yourself and your passengers first. This means choosing an experienced, sober driver, following the laws of the water, checking the weather forecast prior to leaving, and always checking the boat’s engine and equipment prior to putting the boat in the water or leaving the dock. You can do this by designating a driver for the day, this driver should be one who is licensed to drive a boat.
A licensed boat driver will know the laws of the water and proper protocol required in terms of pulling a skier, passing other boats from behind, passing boats head-on, and also the appropriate speed. As far as your boat’s equipment goes, you should complete a routine inspection of the motor and other electrical equipment on board for any abnormalities or issues. You should also always run the boat’s blower prior to starting the engine to avoid the possibility of an explosion. Use these tips next time you are heading out on your boat so you do not become one of the statistics above and remember a safe trip is always a good trip!
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in May 2017 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.