The Dangers of Boating - What Are the Most Common Boat Accident Causes?

This time of year, when the weather is warm and the skies clear, the waters around Seattle are crowded with boats, canoes, paddle boards and jet skis. And inevitably, each year, there are thousands of recreational boating accidents that cause minor and more serious injuries and even fatalities. Today we’ll take a look at the causes of boat accidents so you can better protect yourself and your loved ones.

#1 Inexperienced Boaters

For a long time, anyone could drive a boat, but recent laws require that those driving a boat obtain a Washington State Boater Education Card. This sounds well and good, but it’s just an online course and exam, not a hands-on practical to ensure boat drivers have necessary skills. Most boat accidents leading to death occurred when the driver had not received adequate instruction.

#2 Lack of Life Jacket Usage

Most deaths associated with boat accidents were drownings and in 84% of the cases, life jackets were not worn. And parents aren’t properly life jacketing their children. 36% of child fatalities in boating accidents were due to drowning and in 62.5% of these drowning cases, life jackets were not present. These tragic deaths can be prevented. If you don’t own good life jackets, you can borrow them through the Washington State loaner program.

#3 Alcohol Consumption

As with motor vehicle accidents, alcohol consumption is a huge problem. Alcohol consumption is the leading cause in recreational boating accidents that caused a fatality. Most drivers know not to get out behind the wheel of a car, but don’t think twice about drinking and tooling around in a boat. Also, hot weather leads to increased thirst which can lead to reaching more often for a cold alcoholic beverage.

#4 Collisions

The first and third most common causes of boating accidents are types of collisions. Top most is a collision with another recreational vehicle whether it’s another boat or a jet ski or other watercraft. This accounts for the most injuries and third most common cause of deaths. Collisions with fixed objects like piers or buoys is the second most common cause of maritime death.

#5 Distracted driving

In motor vehicles, distracted driving is a leading cause of fatal accidents and it’s the same on the water. A boat operator not paying attention to the task at hand is the second most common cause of death after alcohol consumption.

Speeding and hazardous water conditions are also in the top five causes of death on the water and can also be attributed to a driver not paying attention to what they’re doing.

Washington State ranks 14th in the US in boating accidents despite having fewer sunny days to get out on the water than most other coastal states or states with lakes large enough to boat. In addition, our state is tied for 6th on the roster of most boating deaths. These are alarming statistics because Washington ranks just 20th in terms of recreational boats registered by state.

Protect Yourself While on the Water

Before you get on the water, consider scheduling a free safety check of your vessel by the Power Squadron. Because most water deaths are drowning deaths, it makes sense to wear a life jacket – and to be especially sure any children boating with you are wearing flotation device. Limit the amount of alcohol you take out on your boat so that there’s no chance of over-indulging and avoid riding with an inexperienced or reckless boat operator.

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