Spring is here, the weather is warming up, and South Carolinians in Columbia and throughout the state are ready to get out on the water. In recognition of National Safe Boating Week, which is May 18-24, and to help reduce accidents, it’s a good idea to kick off boating season with a safety checklist to ensure that you and your boat are water-ready. Investing a little time now in accident prevention may save lives later.
Boating Accident Statistics
In 2017 there were nearly 4,300 recreational boating accidents throughout the country, in which 658 people died and another 2,629 were injured, according to the latest official accident data from the U.S. Coast Guard. Drowning was the cause of death in four out of five fatalities, and 84.5 percent of people who drowned were not wearing life jackets. The top contributing factors in boating accidents were inattention, improper lookout, inexperience, machinery failure and alcohol use.
Boating Safety Checklist
To ensure that your boat is ready before taking the helm, you might consider scheduling a free vessel safety check with your local Coast Guard Auxiliary. If you are new to boating, or even if you are a seasoned boat operator, taking a boating safety course is never a bad idea. Coast Guard statistics for 2017 show that only 14 percent of fatalities were on boats where operators had taken boating safety courses. Also, boaters under 16 years old are required to take a safety class before driving a boat without supervision.
Here is a checklist for boats and boaters:
Be sure your boat is equipped with the following —
- Life jackets for everyone on board and anyone being towed
- Flotation cushion, life ring buoy or other throwable flotation device on boats 16 feet and longer
- Fire extinguisher or more than one extinguisher depending upon the boat’s size
- At least two communication devices that work while wet
- Working navigation lights, which must be on between sunset and sunrise
- A bell, whistle or other sound-producing device for boats less than 39.4 feet long. Vessels larger than that—from 39.4-65.6–feet must carry a whistle and a bell.
- Flares for boats navigating in coastal waters.
Operators and passengers can help stay safe with these tips —
- Check the weather before heading out and during your trip.
- Dress for weather conditions and bring a set of extra clothes in case you get wet.
- Wear your life jacket. While not required except for children under 12, it’s smart for everyone to wear life jackets while boating instead of wasting time putting them on should an accident occur.
- Travel at safe speeds. According to South Carolina law, boats must be operated at idle speed within 50 feet of an anchored boat, a person in the water, a dock, wharf or pier, or within 100 yards of the coastline.
- Don’t operate a boat while distracted or while under the influence of alcohol.
- File a float plan with details about your trip with someone on land.
If, in spite of your diligent preparations, you are the unfortunate victim of a boating accident, our experienced personal injury attorneys at the Louthian Law Firm in Columbia are here to help. Contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.