National Safe Boating Week Kicks Off Before Memorial Day

The U.S. Coast Guard designates the week prior to Memorial Day each year as National Safe Boating Week. This holiday weekend serves as the unofficial start of summer and boating season, so it is the best time to remind people of the steps they need to take to stay safe on the water and be prepared for emergencies.

While new boaters may not be aware of all the recommended safety precautions, those who are comfortable managing their vessels are often at the biggest risk of harm because they get complacent about the dangers.

The Most Common Causes of Boating Accidents

The Recreational Boating Statistics released each year indicate that alcohol continues to be the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating incidents. The top five other contributing factors were operator inattention, operator inexperience, improper lookout, excessive speed, and machinery failure.

When going on the water, don’t underestimate the danger.  It is important to always follow safe boating practices and be prepared for the unexpected.

New Recommendations for 2024

The Coast Guard announced some new initiatives and recommendations this year. They want to educate mariners about the new labeling features on personal floatation devices, commonly referred to as lifejackets. While the new labels do not make older lifejackets obsolete, they do provide more information for those purchasing new devices in the future. Instead of being labeled simply as type one, two, three, four, or five, personal floatation devices labels will specify the performance level and turn ability and include warnings.

In addition, the Coast Guard announced that they will “ramp up” enforcement of the new requirements for wearing engine cut-off devices. Finally, they remind boaters that there is now a mandatory 12-year expiration date for disposable fire extinguishers. They urge everyone to check the manufacturing date of their fire extinguishers, which is usually stamped on the bottom, and replace those that are too old.

Follow These Safety Tips

Every situation carries its own unique dangers, but the National Safe Boating Council recommends these measures to stay safe on the water:

  • Wear a Lifejacket.  In 2022, 75 percent of fatal boating incident victims drowned and 85% of those victims were not wearing life jackets. Life jackets are essential for people of all ages and abilities.
  • Check the Weather.  You need to know about the storms, tides, currents, and winds and to monitor conditions for changes.
  • Be Sober. It is illegal to operate a vessel under the influence. A boat operator impaired by alcohol can be charged with boating under the influence (BUI) and face fines, suspensions, or jail terms.
  • Bring Two Working Communication Devices. Always have two or more forms of communication device that are waterproof and accessible on the boat such as emergency position indicating radio beacons (EPIRBs), satellite phones and personal locator beacons (PLBs.)
  • Take a Marine Radio. Have a VHF-FM radio to communicate.
  • Complete a Boating Safety Course. Many courses are available online, and completing a course could not only save a life but also save money on your insurance. Whether your state requires it or not, take an online course. Boat on Course offers free videos.
  • File a Float Plan. Make sure someone knows where you are going, who’s on board, and when you plan to return.
  • Follow the Rules of the Road. Know the applicable laws and navigation rules where you will be on the water.

Keeping a checklist can be a helpful way to ensure that you are prepared each time you set out.

Don’t Underestimate the Dangers on the Water

As attorneys who help those injured in accidents on the water, the team at Latti & Anderson LLP knows that it is far too common for people to underestimate the risks involved in recreational and commercial boating.

If you own a boat, we urge you to ensure that all operators and passengers follow these rules.  The goal is to have a safe and fun time on the vessel.

Latti & Anderson LLP has focused our practice on seeking justice and full compensation for boating injuries and deaths for over 60 years.  If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us for a confidential consultation.