Operating a boat comes with risks, just like driving a motor vehicle. There are maritime laws, water vessel maintenance standards, other boaters to watch out for, and waterway rules boaters must obey to prevent boating accidents. It is every boater’s duty to know the rules and operate a vessel according to accepted safety standards. Failure to do so can result in a boating accident and may end in a lawsuit for injuries sustained or wrongful death.
There were 4,064 recreational boating accidents around the U.S. in 2014, resulting in 610 deaths. Don’t add to these preventable tragedies. Have fun on the water this summer in safety with these five boating best practices.
How Can You Help Reduce Boat Accidents?
#1. Watch the Weather
Before hitting the open water, check local weather conditions. Look outside for dark clouds, strong winds, or sudden drops in temperature. Watch the local news, marine forecast, or look up weather predictions in your area. Pay special attention to conditions that affect boating, such as wind speeds and directions, storm warnings, and potentially hazardous over-water events. Marine forecasts will headline warnings and advisories for boaters. When in doubt, delay your boating excursion for the safety of everyone involved.
#2. Prepare for Emergencies
Nobody plans on having an emergency while out on the water. Your level of preparedness prior to an emergency situation can make all the difference. Keep safety equipment on board and in proper working order, including:
- Fire extinguishers
- Emergency rafts
- Life jackets
- Throwable flotation devices
- First aid kit
- Flares or visual distress signal
- Sound-producing device (horn, whistle, bells)
- Navigation lights
- Radios with batteries
- Tool kit
- Weather forecasting equipment
Check your safety kit every time you board to make sure nothing has expired or fallen into a state of disrepair. It is also a good idea to pack nonperishable food items and plenty of bottled water in case you must wait for help on the open water.
#3. Follow a Checklist
There are certain actions you can take prior to boarding that will enhance your safety out on the water. Keep a checklist of everything you need before embarking, and don’t leave until you have checked everything off. You will need to bring your driver’s license, vessel registration information, emergency kit, and proper navigation lights. You should also check your oil level and fuel supply, and make sure you have enough life jackets for all passengers. Leave a float plan in your vehicle or with a friend onshore.
#4. Maintain Your Water Vessel
One of the most important things you can do before boating is to check the condition of your vessel. Negligent maintenance and failing systems can cause a breakdown at the worst possible moment or can lead to equipment failure and boating accidents. Before you hoist the anchor, carefully go over these maintenance checkpoints:
- Check all fluid levels.
- Check the propeller.
- Check fuel line and tank for cracks or damage.
- Make sure clamps and fittings are secure.
- Check belts, cables, and hoses for cracks.
- Inspect electrical connections for corrosion.
- Charge the battery.
- Inspect the hull for blisters or distortions.
- Make sure drain plug is securely in place.
Taking proper care of your boat is one of your responsibilities as its operator. Poor maintenance that results in a boating accident can make you liable for resultant injuries.
#5. Learn the Local Boating Laws
It is also important to obey all waterway rules. Look for signs such as no-wake zones and abide by speed limits. Watch for other vessels and flags that mark underwater divers. Never boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs – it is possible to receive a boating while intoxicated or under the influence (BWI/BUI) charge. Always boat within the confines of your local laws.
Seek Council from a Baltimore Boat Accident Attorney
If you or your loved ones were injured in a boating accident due to someone else’s negligence, we want to hear from you! Contact the Law Offices of Randolph Rice in Baltimore, MD for a free consultation about your case today! 410-844-5333
Feature image courtesy of Don DeBold