Motor vehicles not only present a convenient way to get from point A to point B; they’re also a means of recreation and a gateway to personal freedom for many. Boats, in particular, often serve as a leisure craft, allowing owners and guests to enjoy days spent cruising nearby waterways. With fantastic weather year-round and abundant water to enjoy in California, boating is a natural pastime.
Like any form of transportation, however, boats can prove hazardous. Accidents can happen, despite safe and responsible behavior, and injury and even death could result. Anything from changing weather conditions to the negligence of other boaters could spell trouble on the water.
Between 2010 and 2014, California reported a total of 1,981 boating accidents resulting in 224 deaths, according to the 2014 Recreational Boating Statistics released by the U.S. Coast Guard. That equates to an average of about 45 deaths per year. According to the California Recreational Boating Accident Statistics report issued by the California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways (DBW), numbers for subsequent years were above this average, with 49 deaths in 2015 and 50 in 2016.
Why do boating accidents happen? What can you do to prevent them? Here’s what you need to know if you want to enjoy your time on the water and avoid unnecessary harm.
Why Do Boating Accidents Happen?
Like car accidents, boating accidents can be ascribed to any number of causes. In some cases, weather conditions are to blame. Others could occur due to equipment failures, or a failure to use proper safety gear (like life jackets). However, California DBW also warns that alcohol and boating don’t mix. It is illegal to operate vehicles, including boats and jet skis, with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or higher. Even if your BAC is lower, you could still be deemed unfit to operate a boat.
Alcohol impairment is also dangerous for passengers, who could fall overboard or get too near a propeller while swimming, just for example. In addition, weather conditions could heighten the effects of alcohol, while also increasing the effects of cold-water shock. When you know the most common causes of boating accidents and fatalities, you have the best opportunity to avoid them.
How Can I Prevent an Accident?
As noted above, you should never drink and drive a boat, and it’s probably best if guests avoid alcohol consumption, as well. In addition, you need to make sure you understand and follow boating rules. This means having appropriate safety gear for every passenger and using it. You should have Coast Guard-approved life jackets for everyone on board your vessel, as prescribed by law.
Only persons age 16 or older are legally allowed to operate a boat (15hp or greater), and starting January 1, 2018, boaters must carry a California Boater Card proving they have completed required safety education. With proper care, you can greatly reduce your risk of an accident when you hit the high seas in search of adventure aboard your vessel.