Boating is a popular recreational pastime in New York and other areas of the country with easy access to open water. Unfortunately, according to the U.S. Coast Guard, recreational boating results in thousands of accidents and injuries each year. In 2017, there were 4,291 recreational boating accidents around the United States, resulting in 658 deaths and 2,629 injuries. These accidents also caused an aggregated $46 million in property damage.
Just five causes account for nearly half of all recreational boating accidents and injuries, and more than 1/3 of fatalities.
Most Common Causes of Recreational Boating Accidents
The top five causes of recreational boating accidents in 2017, starting with the most common, were:
- Operator inattention
- Improper lookout
- Operator inexperience
- Machinery failure
- Alcohol use
It’s important to note that the number of accidents attributable to a particular cause doesn’t necessarily correlate with the number of injuries or deaths attributable to that cause. Some types of boating accidents are more dangerous that others. For example:
- Operator inattention was the leading cause of accidents, accounting for 620 of the 4,291 recorded recreational boating crashes in 2017. Operator inattention also caused the most injuries—more than 14% of the total. But, only 45 fatalities were attributed to operator inattention, versus 102 attributed to alcohol use.
- Alcohol use came in last among the top five in terms of raw number of accidents, causing 275 or 4,291 boating crashes, or about 6%. But, the 102 deaths caused by boaters under the influence make up more than 15% of boating fatalities.
- Machinery failure was responsible for 305 boating accidents, but triggered the lowest number of both injuries and fatalities among the top five, with 9 deaths and 80 injuries.
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Protecting against New York Boating Accidents
Understanding the common causes of boating accidents can be the first step toward safer practices, just as it is on the road. In fact, there is significant overlap between the common causes of motor vehicle accidents and the common causes of boating accidents.
For instance, both distracted driving and driving under the influence are extremely risky behaviors, whether on the interstate, a city street, or out on the river. Similarly, inexperienced drivers are at greater risk for accidents than more seasoned operators.
If you plan to take advantage of New York’s waterways this summer, commit to staying safe and protecting your passengers and others out on the water by:
- Avoiding alcohol and other drugs while operating a boat, including prescription drugs that can have an impact on your perception, response time, or other critical skills;
- Keeping your eyes on the water when you’re driving the boat, looking out for other crafts, obstacles, and anything else that might affect your safe passage;
- Keep your boat and other equipment in top shape, insuring that all necessary maintenance has been performed before you head out on the water;
- Boat only with an experienced operator, and if you are planning to operate the craft, make sure that you have the necessary training—in 2017, more than 80% of fatalities occurred on boats operated by someone who had not received boating safety instruction
Injured in a Boating Accident?
Boating under the influence, distracted boating, faulty maintenance, and other negligent behaviors by boat owners and operators give rise to liability, just as these same behaviors would on the road. If you’ve been injured in a boating accident or have lost a loved one, you may be entitled to compensation.
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