Summer is here, and Alabama boating season is upon us. Our numerous lakes, rivers, and access to the Gulf of Mexico make the Yellowhammer State a prime vacation spot for those who love to fish, sail, or just spend some time out on the water with family and friends. This year, we can expect even more boaters as many other summer activities have been canceled or limited by COVID-19.
There is nothing like enjoying summer fun on the waterways, but it does come at a potential cost. In 2019, Alabama had the highest number of boat accident fatalities since 1998, and the Fourth of July weekend was particularly deadly. Manufacturers are always coming out with bigger and faster water vessels, and with so much boating traffic in the summertime, it is more important than ever to take proactive steps to stay safe.
Common Causes of Boat Accidents
Most boating accidents are preventable and due to some type of human error. Some of the most common reasons why they occur include:
- Operator Inexperience: Alabama requires all motorized boat operators who are age 12 and above to complete a boat safety course and carry a boater education card. This may sound stringent, but in reality, it is just a matter of completing an online course, paying a fee, and obtaining a card from the DMV. Some operators are not properly licensed, and many who are still do not have the proper training and experience to safely handle some of the conditions that arise on the waterways.
- Operator Inattention: There are numerous ways that a boat operator can get distracted while out on the water. Dealing with passengers, handling equipment, and in recent years, being tempted to take pictures or videos or send messages on their cell phone.
- Excessive Speeding/Recklessness: For a lot of people, speed is a big part of the fun out on the water. This is especially true with certain types of vessels, such as jet skis and speedboats that are pulling a water skier. Unfortunately, some operators cross the line into excessive speeding and other reckless behaviors like making big waves and getting too close to other watercraft.
- Alcohol Use: Alcohol is often a big part of a boat outing. So naturally, it is tempting for boat operators to consume a few adult beverages. But as is the case with drunk driving, alcohol does not mix well with driving a boat.
- Machinery/Equipment Failure: Problems with the engine, problems with the steering system, or problems with other equipment can result in a boat accident if the trouble occurs in the wrong place and at the wrong time.
Important Safety Tips for Alabama Boaters
- Be Educated on Boating Laws: Always know the laws and navigation rules for the waterways where you will be traveling – and follow them.
- Check the Current Weather Conditions: Before you go out on the water, be familiar with the latest weather conditions and advisories. And if there is stormy weather moving in, follow local advisories and postpone your outing if necessary.
- Designate a Lookout: Whenever possible, designate someone to watch out for threats and hazards that the boat operator might miss. Having a lookout can help you avoid catastrophe on the waterways.
- Always Wear Life Vests: Everyone who goes out on the water should be wearing a life preserver – no matter what your level of experience or how good a swimmer you are. Your ability to swim will not do you any good if you are ever knocked unconscious and fall out of the boat, so always have your life vest on.
- Avoid Drunk Boating: As we talked about earlier, if you are the one operating the boat, make the safety of yourself and others who are with you your top priority by staying sober and not consuming alcohol.
- Avoid Reckless Boating: Do not go too fast or otherwise operate your boat in a reckless manner that endangers your party and others on the water.
Contact an Experienced Birmingham, AL Boating Accident Lawyer Even when we have done all we can to avoid a boat accident, we cannot control the negligence or recklessness of other parties. If you or someone close to you got injured in a boating wreck that was someone else’s fault, contact Burge & Burge for assistance. Call our office today at 205-251-9000 or message us online for a free consultation and case evaluation. We look forward to serving you