Make Boating Safety Priority on Labor Day Weekend

by | Aug 21, 2015 | Personal Injury

Our Oklahoma City personal injury attorneys remind boaters to make boating safety a priority on Labor Day weekend.
Oklahomans love their sport boats and fishing boats. For many people, being on the water offers an escape from the stresses of jobs and daily life, providing a chance to relax and enjoy being outdoors during the summer and fall.

Many boaters include alcohol in their recreational outings, increasing the risk of boating accidents, injuries and even fatal accidents.

Thousands of people float the Illinois River in Oklahoma every weekend, with many drinking alcoholic beverages, according to an article in The Oklahoman. Even kayaking and floating on inner tubes can be dangerous when alcohol is involved because of the increased likelihood of reckless behavior. Partiers can be cited for alcohol-related violations as well.

On larger bodies of water, the risk of accidents increases greatly when numerous motorboats are present, as on holiday weekends. The speed of power boats poses serious risk even for experienced boaters who are sober. When a boater is operating under the influence of alcohol, the risk escalates dramatically.

Oklahoma Boating Accident Statistics

Oklahoma recorded 50 boating accidents in 2014 with six deaths and 51 injuries, according to the Coast Guard statistics.

The total number of accidents in Oklahoma over the last five years has remained relatively constant at 50 a year, although 71 were reported in 2012. The number of deaths from boating mishaps dropped to six in 2014 from 15 just two years earlier.

Oklahoma reported five alcohol-related boating accidents in 2014, down from 11 in 2010. Those caused two deaths and five injuries.

Top Contributors to Boating Accidents

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, the top five causes of boating accidents nationwide are:

  • Operator inattention
  • Improper lookout
  • Inexperience
  • Excessive speed
  • Alcohol use.

The highest proportion of fatal accidents occurred in open motorboats followed by canoes and kayaks.

Nationwide, alcohol was a leading factor in 21 percent of boating fatalities, the leading known contributor.

Drowning is the most common cause of death in fatal boating accidents.  According to the Coast Guard, 78 percent of boating accident victims drowned when the cause of death was known, and of those victims, 84 percent weren’t wearing a life jacket.

Boating instruction was important, with 23 percent of fatalities taking place on boats where the operator had boating safety instruction and only 12 percent on vessels where the operator had a nationally-approved boating safety education certificate.

Running Afoul of the Law

An Oklahoma Scenic Riverways Commission task force is patrolling the Illinois River all summer and is likely to be making a crackdown over the Labor Day weekend to reduce water-related accidents.

Because of the prevalence of alcohol among river floaters, 60 percent of the 93 tickets rangers have written this year involve alcohol, according to The Oklahoman article.

Alcohol isn’t outlawed, but drinks stronger than 3.2 percent are prohibited on the river, and beer isn’t allowed in glass containers. Citations range from public intoxication to consumption of alcohol over 3.2 percent to underage consumption and providing alcohol to those under 21.

While we would not want to discourage anyone from canoeing or kayaking, those who want to enjoy a weekend on the river should be aware of the dangers surrounding them, including fights, drownings and other mishaps related to impaired boating.

Safety Precautions

If you plan to enjoy a weekend of boating as the summer starts to wane, put safety first using the following suggestions:

  • Make sure everyone is wearing a life jacket, no matter how calm the water may seem.
  • Keep flotation devices on board in case someone gets in trouble in the water.
  • Put together a travel plan with names and addresses of people going on the boating trip and leave it with a friend.
  • Make sure anyone operating the boat has state-required training.
  • Avoid alcoholic beverages if operating the boat.

Use common sense on your boating adventures. You’ll enjoy the outings more, and you’ll be much more likely to avoid accidents, injuries and citations.

If you or a family member are injured in a boating accident caused by someone else’s fault, contact an attorney who can help you determine whether you have the right to file a claim and guide you through the legal system, ensuring you receive full compensation to cover injuries, property damage and lost work time. Don’t let someone else’s negligence destroy your life.