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How can I prevent a boating accident from happening?

By Beth Gibson on April 29, 2020

Boating in Eastern Virginia – whether by river, bay, or ocean – is an epic pastime. Many of us have grown up enjoying the water, learning to swim, fish, and handle boats since childhood. But even the most experienced boater can be in an accident. Maybe another boat is speeding by with a driver who is having a beer, ending in a collision. Or perhaps you get caught in bad weather and run aground. Or maybe one of your passengers unexpectedly falls overboard.

If you love being out on the water, it’s important to know how to minimize your risks. The better prepared you are, the less likely you are to be caught in a dangerous situation.

When does boating fun turn dangerous?

While boating accidents are not as common as car wrecks, they do happen often and in many ways. Approximately 4,100 boating accidents occurred in a recent year in the United States, with more than 2,500 injuries and 600 deaths, according to a recent report by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Coast Guard. Based on these numbers, roughly six out of 10 boating accidents involve injuries, and one out of 10 end in death.

These departments also reported the main types of accidents, which are listed below in order of the highest number occurring:

  1. Collisions with other vessels
  2. Collisions with fixed objects
  3. Flooding/swamping
  4. Grounding
  5. Falls overboard

In addition, the report noted the key factors that led to accidents:

  1. Operator inattention
  2. Improper lookout
  3. Operator inexperience
  4. Machinery failure
  5. Excessive speed
  6. Alcohol use
  7. Force of wake/wave
  8. Weather
  9. Navigation rules violation
  10. Hazardous waters

Tips to avoid a bad accident on the water

As you can see, many boating accidents are preventable, even situations involving hazardous waters or weather, by following a few simple tips:

  1. Check the weather early and often. While no one can stop a rainstorm, we all have resources to check the weather – from a daily weather report to smartphone apps. Simply checking conditions before boating or docking right away when a storm cloud rolls in can prevent an accident.
  2. Get your boat checked too. You might think that you don’t have to have your boat inspected for mechanical issues if you only take it out a few times each year. But if you left your car sitting in the garage for seven months at a time, you would still want someone to look under its hood to make sure everything was in working order. The same goes for boats.
  3. Think safety first. Along the same lines, accidents that involve operator inattention or carelessness, such as speeding or using alcohol, start with bad choices. While everyone wants to enjoy a casual day on the water, we should always be asking ourselves, “Is this safe?” If you are the captain, then be the captain.
  • When a family friend wants to steer the boat, but you know he’s inexperienced, ask, “Is this safe?”
  • When your cousin offers you a beer before you get on a Jet Ski, ask yourself, “Is this safe?”
  • When your niece wants to go kayaking but doesn’t have a life jacket, just imagine her mother asking, “Is this safe?”

No one enjoys being called a “buzzkill” or “stick-in-the-mud,” but you also don’t want to be the guy that caused someone else to be seriously hurt or worse. Being attentive, responsible, and planning ahead are your best bets against a tragic boating collision or drowning. When things go wrong on the water, they go wrong fast, and there is not much leeway.

Friendly legal guidance after a boating accident

Boating requires preparation, a clear head, and good decision-making. Otherwise, passengers and swimmers can get hurt. We at GibsonSingleton Virginia Injury Attorneys believe in sharing safety information to try to prevent accidents.

But after a Virginia boating accident happens, we are here to represent the victims and obtain compensation for them. Both my law partner John and I know personal injury cases, and we will give you our best advice throughout the process of getting you justice. Call our office at (804) 413-6777 to set up a free meeting with us. We will treat you like our neighbor that you are, while we fight for your best interests.

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Prevention, empathy, and diligence are hallmarks of everything we do at GibsonSingleton Virginia Injury Attorneys. Our community can see these ideals lived out in our work to prevent personal injuries from happening.

  • Safety Education
    GibsonSingleton launches a “Texts=Wrecks” campaign to reduce the number of people injured or killed by distracted drivers.
  • Annual Coat Drive
    During the fall, our team works to distribute coats to people in need in our community.
  • Hands-on Service
    John and Ken join the Gloucester Point Rotary Club in cleaning up the community.
  • Supporting Local Schools
    The Gibson family participates in Gloucester’s Botetourt Elementary Shuffle fundraiser.