The Most Common Causes of Boating Accidents

For boaters, there's a lot to love about Texas— including over 80,000 miles of river and 7,000 lakes. Boating in our waterways should be a carefree activity, but unfortunately, Texas has the third-highest rate of boating accidents in the country.

Even if you’re planning a boating vacation out of state, the dangers remain. In 2020, the U.S. Coast Guard counted 5,265 boating accidents that involved 767 deaths, 3,191 injuries, and approximately 62.5 million dollars of damage to property.

Despite these grim statistics, many boating accidents can be prevented by taking certain safety measures and avoiding other risky behaviors.

In this article, our Dallas Boating accident lawyers will break down the most common causes of boating collisions, how you can prevent them, and what to do if a reckless boater puts you in harm’s way.

The Most Common Causes of Boating Accidents

Boating Under the Influence (BUI)

During boating season, it’s not uncommon for people to hit the waters with a cold case of beer to enjoy with family and friends. However, just because it’s a recreational vehicle doesn’t mean the operator is immune from blood alcohol content (BAC) laws.

In most states, including Texas, BAC laws are the same for both boaters and motor vehicle drivers. Operating a boat with a BAC of greater than 0.08 is a criminal offense and can lead to arrest and license suspension.

While drinking laws are the same for both boaters and drivers, boating under the influence can be far more dangerous than drunk driving.

It’s common knowledge that alcohol impairs your motor skills and significantly increases the likelihood of accidents. But unlike driving, boating comes with increased physical stressors that affect our operational skills, such as exposure to vibration, sun glare, wind, and the motion of the water. Moreover, research shows that hours of exposure to these stressors produce a kind of fatigue, or “boater’s hypnosis,” which slows reaction time almost as much as if you were legally drunk.

Each drink intensifies these effects and multiplies the risk of a boating accident.

Operator Inattention & Improper Lookout

“I didn’t see them coming” is too often the explanation for a boating crash— and it’s no surprise. As the operator, you have to constantly pay attention to numerous things: your vessel, your passengers, other boats, jet skiers, swimmers, kayakers, and submerged objects, to name a few.

According to the USCG, operator inattention and improper lookout were the top two contributing factors of boating accidents in 2020.

Scanning the horizon while simultaneously driving the boat is not an easy task. For this reason, it’s essential to assign another person as a lookout to cover your blind spots. Having a second set of eyes and ears will make it easier to avoid incoming hazards— and avoid tragedy.

Operator Inexperience

Much like a teen driving a car for the first time, an inexperienced boater has a higher-than-usual crash risk. According to the USCG’s data on accidents, 77% of deaths occurred on vessels where the operator did not receive boating safety education. Only 12% of deaths occurred on vessels where the operator was known to have received a nationally approved boating safety education certificate.

Just like the driver of a car is responsible for the safety of their passengers by knowing the rules of the road, boat operators have the same responsibility. Without learning the rules of the waterway and boating safety practices, a planned day of fun in the sun can quickly turn dangerous.

The Coast Guard recommends that all boaters take a boating safety course that meets the National Boating Education Standards before getting out on the water. And in Texas, the law states that anyone born after September 1, 1993, must complete a Boater Education course to operate a boat.

If you’re a novice, you should take advantage of classes offered by organizations like the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, America’s Boating Club, and U.S. Powerboating that help people gain the skills they need to feel comfortable at the helm and avoid accidents.

Excessive Speed

One of the top five causes of boating accidents is excessive speeding or not adjusting the speed to the waterway conditions. In 2020, speeding was the culprit behind 418 accidents, 32 deaths, and 345 injuries.

Unlike highways, there are no numerical speed limit signs on the water, so boaters must understand how to operate the vessel at a safe speed and keep a healthy distance from other lake-goers.

In fact, driving a boat at high speeds can be more dangerous than speeding in a car because it takes more time to stop or change direction in the water. When boaters drive at reckless speeds, it can result in collisions or rollovers, leading to costly damage and death.

Boaters should use common sense and maintain a speed that considers visibility, traffic, and weather conditions. While it may be fun to jet across the water, boating at a safe speed will ensure the operator has the time and stopping distance it takes to avoid a collision.

What to Do After a Boating Accident

After a boating accident, you should immediately call the authorities and seek medical attention. Law enforcement officers and medical professionals have the training to help injured boaters and provide life-saving aid if a passenger has sustained severe injuries or fell overboard.

You’ll also need to report the incident to the authorities. Texas law requires that you report a “serious” boating accident within 30 days after the incident. An accident is considered “serious” when property damage exceeds $2,000; injuries require professional medical treatment beyond first aid; and, of course, the death or disappearance of anyone on board.

After reporting the incident to the authorities, consider hiring an attorney. If you believe a negligent or reckless boater caused your accident, an attorney can help you receive compensation to pay for expenses associated with damages, serious injury, or death. 

Contact Our Dallas Boating Accident Lawyers For Help

Boating should bring good times, good memories, and a nice stringer of fish. But when you share the waterways with negligent boaters, a dreamy summer day can easily turn into a nightmare.

If you’ve been involved in a boating accident, don’t hesitate to contact the experienced attorneys at The Law Offices of Tim O’Hare. Our team will interview witnesses, obtain relevant documentation, and determine if any state boating regulations have been violated so that you get the compensation you deserve. Schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with us today.