This week is National Safe Boating Week. In light of the tragic boating accident that took place at the Lake of the Ozarks over the weekend, we at Monsees & Mayer, P.C. feel it is important to promote the safe boating campaign.  If everyone would take these to heart our waterways would be a great deal safer.

Safe Boating Campaign

Take a Boating Safety Course – Everyone is required to pass a driving test in order to operate a motor vehicle on our roads and highways. This test is administered as a safety measure to ensure everyone is aware of the rules of the road. Boating safety course requirements vary by state. Missouri requires boat operators born after Jan 1, 1984 to complete a boater safety course. Kansas requires operators between the ages of 12 to 20 to complete a boating safety course.  Whether required to complete a course or not, everyone should take a boating safety course to learn the rules and safety procedures. It could save you and your passengers’ life.

Know the Navigation Rules – Boats have rules of the water, just like an automobile has rules of the road.  Knowing which side to pass a boat, whether it is heading toward or away from you, is a fundamental rule everyone needs to know. Maintain a safe speed at all times. Keep a watchful eye out for other water craft, swimmers, buoys and other navigational tools. Always keep a safe distance between them and your boat.  

Wear a Life Jacket – Make sure everyone in the boat is wearing a properly fitted U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket. An accident can happen very quickly and suddenly, so you must always be prepared. You may be the safest driver but an accident can still occur due to the negligence of another driver. Those in your boat could be rendered unconscious and subsequently knocked from the boat. If they are not wearing a life jacket, keeping afloat will be impossible. The U.S. Coast Guard statistics say two-thirds of fatal boating accidents victims drown, with 90% of those not wearing a life jacket.   

Watch Out for Obstacles – Many obstacles exist on the water that must be avoided, both stationary and in motion. Docks, sandbars, islands and seawalls are generally stationary, while watercraft, floating logs and debris can be continually in motion. It is a good idea when first getting on the water to familiarize yourself with all the stationary objects around the area you are boating. Docks are generally distanced from the shoreline depending on the depth of the water around it.  Sandbars can be attached to the shore line or off shore and can be visible or beneath the water. Size and visibility of a seawall will depend on the area it was designed to protect. Stationary objects can be readily identified and planned for.  However, boats and any type of floating debris must be continually watched for. Boaters are continually in motion. Never assume you do not have to look around you before altering your course. The waves these boats generate continually dislodge limbs and debris. These same waves can carry this debris anywhere within the waterway. Continued vigilance for any of these obstacles is a must..

Do NOT Boat Under the Influence – Federal Law prohibits the use of alcohol or drugs while operating a boat or other recreational boating vehicles. Boating under the influence dulls the mind, reduces reaction times, impairs judgement, and causes difficulty balancing. Even an intoxicated passenger poses a danger, as they become unable to take care of themselves and become a distraction to the driver.   

Be Aware of Passenger Safety – Do not exceed the number of passengers allowed in your vessel. Make sure all passengers are seated while the boat is in motion. Shut off the boat’s engine while passengers are loading or unloading for water related activities such as tubing, waterskiing, wakeboarding or swimming. Become familiar with signs of carbon monoxide exposure (headache, nausea, irritated eyes, weakness and dizziness). Boating engines produce carbon monoxide and poor ventilation or poorly maintained equipment can lead to exposure for your passengers and yourself. Using carbon monoxide detectors and stay off the swim platform while the engine is running.

Be Aware of the Weather – Check your local weather before heading out. Local TV and radio stations will have the latest weather and there are many good apps to use on your phone as well. If the wind becomes strong and causes turbulent water, the clouds get dark or the temperature suddenly drops are all good signs to get off / stay off the water.   Never go boating during any active lightning storm.

The above are great guidelines, but one of the most important things you can do is use good common sense. When boating you are not only taking your own life into your hands, but the passengers in your boat and all the other boaters around you. Be smart and let’s get everyone home safely.

If you or a family member has a question about an injury suffered in a boating accident feel free to contact one of our attorneys. We are here to answer any questions you may have.