It’s summertime, and that means that boating enthusiasts will be found throughout Wisconsin’s lakes and rivers, enjoying the cool water and warm sunshine. Boating is one of the most pleasurable summer activities across the United States, but boat operators and passengers alike need to prioritize safety and do whatever they can to avoid dangerous boating accidents.
Boating accidents are more common than most believe. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, over 4,000 recreational boating accidents occurred in 2014 throughout the U.S. In those accidents, 610 people died and over 2,500 were injured. These figures are significant when you consider the fact that recreational boating is often seen as an enjoyable, risk-free pastime. Any activity on the water is potentially dangerous, however, especially when combined with motorized vessels, high speeds, and human error.
The Top 6 Causes of Recreational Boating Accidents
To lower the risks of boating accidents, we must first examine the causes of these accidents. These are the top 6 causes of recreational boating accidents in Wisconsin as well as throughout the United States:
Operator Inattention – When a boater doesn’t pay attention to other boats, buoys, rocks, large waves, or wakes, an accident can quickly result. Looking out for other people in the water such as windsurfers, swimmers, and kayakers is crucial. A boat operator also needs to pay attention to how fast they are moving on the water and be on the lookout for any adverse weather conditions that may appear. When an operator fails to pay attention or otherwise behaves recklessly, they are placing all passengers at risk.
Operator Inexperience – Inexperienced boaters may not always know how to avoid accidents or how to properly maintain a boat to maximize safety. Accidents caused by operator inexperience can generally be avoided with proper training courses and additional practice.
Excessive Speed – When a boat is traveling at excessive speeds, avoiding other vessels, rocks, or sudden wakes can be difficult. Attempting to turn a fast-moving boat suddenly can result in a capsized vessel. Capsizing or overturning a boat can result in serious injuries to everyone onboard.
Alcohol Impairment – Driving a car while under the influence of alcohol is a quick way to cause a disastrous car accident. Operating a boat while under the influence of alcohol is no different. Alcohol lowers our reaction times and sense of judgement as well as limits our ability to notice potentially-dangerous situations whether we’re on land or on the water.
Dangerous Conditions – Boating during stormy weather, high winds, or poor visibility can result in accidents. The water becomes a perilous place during stormy weather and waves can often be unpredictable. Even an experienced boater should be wary about operating their vessel during a major storm.
Equipment Failure or a Failure to Keep a Boat Safe/Maintained – Sometimes, a boat engine or crucial part will fail or stall out on the open water. This can cause an accident if another vessel cannot turn away in time. Boat owners have a legal responsibility to keep their boats safe for open waters. This includes keeping vessels well-maintained, replacing parts that should be replaced, and keeping the stairs and walkways slip-free.
As you can see from the above list, a large percentage of boating accidents can be completely avoided if boat owners and operators operated their vessels responsibly and practiced caution where necessary. It’s up to all boaters to act responsibly on the waters and ensure everyone has a good time this summer and every summer.
If you or someone you love was injured in a boating accident in Wisconsin and you feel the operator of a boat or the owner of a boat and/or establishment was acting negligently or carelessly, legal recourse may be an option. Contact Urban & Taylor to learn how a Milwaukee personal injury lawyer can help you move forward.