Boating can be a fun, exciting or relaxing way to spend your time off, whether you’re fishing offshore, on a sailboat, in a kayak or on a houseboat on a lake. If things go wrong, boating can also result in serious injuries or deaths. Safe boating advocates are raising awareness of the many issues that impact boating safety during the week of May 21-27, with a focus on the importance of wearing a life jacket.
Drowning was the cause of death in 75% of recreational boating fatalities in 2014, and 84% percent of those who drowned were not wearing life jackets, according to U.S. Coast Guard statistics.
Newer life jackets are much more comfortable, lightweight and stylish than the bulky orange style most of us may think of when we hear the term life jacket. Some of them are inflatable life jackets which permit better mobility and flexibility for those fishing or paddling. They are also much cooler than older models in the warmer weather. The jackets inflate with a CO2 canister when a sensor determines it’s in the water or the wearer activates the jacket manually.
Drownings often occur in situations such as these:
- Someone without a life jacket falls overboard or the vessel overturns or sinks.
- There are not enough life jackets for all those onboard.
- There is a collision with another boat or object and a passenger without a life jacket is injured or incapacitated and is thrown overboard into the water.
Other Coast Guard statistics show the hazards of unsafe boating:
- Operator inattention, improper lookout, operator inexperience, excessive speed and alcohol are the top five contributing factors in boating accidents.
- Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents. In accidents where the cause of the accident is known, it was the leading factor in 21% of deaths.
- 80% of drownings involved boats less than 21 feet in length.
- The vessels with the highest percentage of deaths are open motorboats (47%), canoes (13%) and kayaks (10%).
- Uneducated boaters are hazardous boaters. In cases where it was known whether a boater received instructions, 23% of deaths occurred on boats where the operator had received boating safety training and 12% of fatalities happened on boats where the operator obtained a nationally-approved boating safety education certificate. The New Jersey State Police’s Boating Safety Manual contains a lot of useful information on how to operate a boat safely.
There are rules for boaters, just as there are for drivers. All too often those piloting boats act negligently, just like too many drivers on the road do. They are drinking too much, going too fast and not paying attention to their surroundings. If an accident occurs due to the negligence of the boat owner or pilot and injuries or deaths result, a victim may have a valid legal claim for compensation.
If you or a loved one has been seriously injured or killed in a boating accident, schedule a free consultation with our office by calling us at (973) 358-6134 or by using our online quick connect form. Statutes of limitations apply, so contact us as soon as possible so you can learn about your legal rights and take action to protect your interests.