Do You Know The Leading Causes in Boating Fatalities?

Posted by Scott A. Staples | Jun 07, 2021 | 0 Comments


In what is becoming an annual tradition on this blog, I write to you today about boating safety. 

We have discussed boating safety before in other blog posts; Boating Safety Refresher, Boating Age Requirments, Keeping Safe While Having Fun: Boat Safety & Refresher.  

The waterways are looking a lot more appealing now that the sun is out, on at least a semi-regular basis. Despite the fairly detailed regulatory scheme now in place on the water, I think many people still feel like it's the wild west, with little law enforcement presence, lots of distractions, and a couple of drinks under the belt. I assure you, there are boating rules and they are meant to keep you and others safe. 

Dangers of Boating

There are many dangers of boating that can cause serious injury or death. Here are a couple of the main reasons that boating can become dangerous; 

  • No life jackets on the boat: Many people are not enforcing life jackets. It is important that all children 12 and under are wearing life jackets regardless of their ability to swim. It is advised that even adults who are not strong swimmers also wear life jackets. 
  • No life jackets while being pulled by boat: All participants who are being pulled behind a boat on Intertubes, skies, wakeboard, kneeboard, or the like are wearing life jackets regardless of age or swimming ability. 
  • Alcohol: Alcohol consumption makes up about 20% of all boating fatalities.
  • Speeding: Did you know that there are speed limits on the water much like the road? Speeding ranks in the top 5 reasons that boat accidents and fatalities occur. 

Although they can be a ton of fun, boats and personal watercrafts can also cause serious injuries when used unsafely, a fact borne out by the many boating injuries and fatalities that occur every year.  


Boating Safety Tips

Here a few safety tips to keep in mind as you enjoy the beautiful weather this summer out on the water:

Look Both Ways

Although the need to keep a lookout and drive carefully applies both on the road and on the water, boating presents unique safety challenges. Other craft on waterways might be coming at you from any direction at any time, so the need to scan ahead and around you is possibly even more acute than on controlled roadways.



Life Jacket Safety 

A primary rule of safe boating is to wear a personal floatation device (PFD, or life vest) at all times, and insist that your passengers do the same. Manufacturers make some very comfortable safety vest options now, and it's too late to be trying to find one to put on when you've been knocked off the boat unexpectedly. According to a study, 86% of those who died in a boating-related death were not wearing a life jacket. 



Alcohol & Boating Do Not Mix

Alcohol is involved in a high percentage of boating accidents, and it is best practice for boating to be done soberly.

According to Washington State Parks, as stated above almost 20% of recreational boating fatalities involve alcohol as a leading factor. It is clearly not against the law for of-age passengers in a boat to have open containers and be consuming alcohol.  Operating a boat under the influence (BUI) of alcohol or drugs is illegal and carries similar penalties as a regular DUI.

Boat operators who drink even a little should bear in mind that an officer can ask you to submit to sobriety tests (with penalties for refusing) if they can articulate probable cause. Probable cause is likely going to be easily found if the operator has been drinking and/or has an open container in their possession. Law enforcement suggests appointing a designated driver just like you would when going out to the bar. 



Take The Mandatory Boating Course

As of a few years ago, Washington now requires all boat operators born after Jan. 1, 1955, to take an education course and obtain a certification after passing a test. To learn about the rules and requirements for boat operation in Washington, start at the state parks website.  


About the Author

Scott A. Staples

Scott Staples came on board in 2006 as a clerk during law school, and joined the firm as an associate attorney in 2007. He was made a shareholder in the firm in 2010. Scott graduated, cum laude, from Washington State University Vancouver with a BA in English, and obtained his Juris Doctorate from Willamette University College of Law, with cum laude honors there as well. He has successfully represented clients in a variety of different types of injury cases, including auto collisions, premises liability, animal attacks, watercraft accidents, and construction site injuries. He has appeared, and won, before the Washington State Supreme Court (Weismann v. Safeco, 2012). Scott has volunteered time for the past several years at the Clark County Volunteer Lawyers Housing Justice Project. He has previously served on the new member and membership committees for the Washington State Association for Justice (WSAJ), and has acted as chair and co-chair of the WSAJ Clark County Roundtable. He is a member of the Washington and Oregon State Bar Associations, WSAJ and OTLA (state trial lawyer organizations), and is admitted to practice in all state and federal courts in Washington and Oregon. Scott was born and raised in Vancouver, attending Vancouver public schools and graduating from Hudson's Bay High School. He enjoys playing recreational basketball and softball, skiing, and spending time with his wife and three children.


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