Boating Injury Statistics & Navigational Rules

In 2008, the U.S. Coast Guard received reports for 4,789 boating incidents; 3,331 boaters were reported injured, and 709 died. Among those who drowned, 9 out of 10 were not wearing life jackets. Most boating fatalities that occurred during 2008 (72%) were caused by drowning with 90% of victims not wearing life jackets; the remainder were due to trauma, hypothermia, carbon monoxide poisoning, or other causes. The lesson to be learned from these statistics is that no matter how good a swimmer you are, wear a life jacket to greatly increase your odds of surviving a boating accident.

The rules that govern most waterways are markedly different than rules of the road and many boaters are not familiar with these navigational rules of the waterways.

For instance, Rule 5 of the Coast Guards Navigational Rules require that all vessels must at all times maintain a diligent look-out both by sight and sound as well as by all available means appropriate so as to make a full assessment of the situation and of the overall risk of collision. Other Coast Guard rules require all vessels to maintain a safe speed so that the boat can take proper and effective maneuvers to avoid collisions and stop within an appropriate distance to the circumstances.

In determining a safe speed the following factors are taking into consideration:

  1. Degree of visibility;
  2. How dense is boat traffic, including concentrations of fishing and other vessels;
  3. The maneuverability of the vessel considering stopping ability and turning ability in the prevailing conditions;
  4. For nighttime, the presence of other light such as shore lights or the boat’s own lights;
  5. The wind, sea and current conditions, and the location of navigational hazards;

There are other factors that may also be considered.

Very often, as you have surely experienced, these rules are routinely violated by recreational boaters, especially those on their weekend “booze cruises”.

When there is a risk of collision, all boats must use all means available to determine if a risk of collision exists given the prevailing circumstances and conditions. If there is any doubt then the rule is that there is a presumed to be a risk of collision. When determining if there is a risk of collision, here is what is considered: if the direction of travel of an approaching vessel does not appreciably change; however, there may still be a risk of collision even when the appreciable vessel does appeal to change its bearing, especially when approaching a very large vessel or when approaching a vessel very close.

When a boating collision is imminent, Coast Guard Rule 8 requires that “any action taken to avoid collision shall be taken in accordance with the Rules of this Part and shall, if the circumstances of the case admit, be positive, made in ample time and with due regard to the observance of good seamanship...” Handbook of the Nautical Rules of the Road, Rule 8 -- Action to Avoid Collision.

These rules are by no means exhaustive of boating operator rules but are meant to provide the reader with a general understanding that not only do a set of rules exist but that these rules are vastly different that the rules that govern land-based vehicle operations.

We aggressively go after the at-fault boat operator who causes injuries. Our boating accident attorneys are top rate and if you or a loved one were injured in a boating accident, please call our experienced boating accident lawyers at our boating accident hotline now! Our Atlanta personal injury attorneys are waiting for your call at 404-622-5337.

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