Kick Off Boating Season the Right Way—Safely

Just in time for the beginning of summer, the National Safe Boating Council holds Safe Boating Week, which runs this year from May 21 to 27. The Council promotes using life jackets through their “Wear It!” campaign and supplies information about how to use them.

According to the US Coast Guard, three-fourths of all deaths are due to drowning. Of those who drowned, 84 percent were not wearing life jackets. Life jackets are required in South Carolina; each person on board must have a US Coast Guard-approved jacket. Types of jackets are I, II, III, and V, with Type IV being a throwable, non-jacket personal flotation device. South Carolina law also requires a throwable device to be on board for vessels 16 feet and longer.

Boating Fatalities Happen Too Often in SC

We have a lot of water in South Carolina, a lot of boaters, and, unfortunately, a number of people who behave irresponsibly, thereby causing terrible tragedies. Both 2010 and 2013 were dreadful years for boating fatalities. During 2010 there were two deadly accidents on Lake Murray, with a final yearly tally of 27 deaths. In 2013, we again suffered 27 fatalities, arising from 104 accidents total. That year, South Carolina ranked fourth in the nation for boating-related deaths; the only states with higher totals were Florida, California, and Texas, all states larger than us. During 2014, we came in seventh, with 124 mishaps and 14 fatalities.

Alcohol usage is the most common reason for boating fatalities, causing more than one-fifth of all deaths nationwide. In South Carolina, from 2009 through 2013, alcohol was named as the primary cause in 16 percent of boating deaths.

Excessive speed is another reason that is often implicated in boating deaths, and nationally it follows alcohol usage on the “top five” list of causes. It seems that a lack of judgment caused by too much alcohol easily leads to speeding and accidents on the water, the same as on our roads.

Because some of the catastrophic accidents in recent history have been due to high-speed boating after dark, a bill known as “Hailey’s Law” was proposed in the South Carolina Legislature. However, the bill has been in committee since January, 2015, and has yet to be enacted.

Online Resources for Safer Boating

There are ways you can help keep yourself and your loved ones unharmed while on the water: don’t drink, don’t speed, wear life jackets, file a float plan, be especially cautious boating after dark, and know how to boat safely. We recommend a course from the local Coast Guard Auxiliary.

If you own a smartphone, you can download a US Coast Guard app that provides boating safety resources. With the app, you can do such things as request emergency assistance (the app has a button that calls the closest USCG command center), file a float plan, request a safety check of your boat, and report suspicious activity or hazards. Note that the app is not intended to take the place of marine VHF radio, which all boaters should have aboard.

You can also use your smartphone to access The Official South Carolina Boat Safety Handbook from the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. The Handbook can educate you on boating laws in our state and also supply you with information about operating your vessel safely. Topics include boating basics, navigation rules, navigating at night, required equipment, and handling emergencies.

When life goes wrong, we fight for what’s right.

A day on the water with loved ones can be a wonderful time of adventure and togetherness. Just don’t leave your common sense home. But, if you should have an unfortunate accident, know that boating accident law can be complex. Generally, the same laws that apply to vehicle accidents on the land also apply to recreational injuries and accidents — but special laws may apply on a commercial vessel, even a small charter boat. That’s why it’s imperative to speak with the Louthian Law Firm if you or someone you love has been hurt in a boating accident.

We can help evaluate your case, protect your right to sue and get the best possible financial outcome from your case. And because we know injured people are often stretched thin financially, we always offer free consultations to potential clients. To speak with an experienced Columbia, South Carolina boat accident lawyer, call our office today at (803) 454-1200, or fill out our confidential online form.