Although Floridians enjoy boating throughout the year, safety remains a
prevalent concern for this popular pastime. In an effort to decrease the
amount of boat accidents that occur, the state of Florida, along with
the US Coast Guard Auxiliary, offers safety training and other programs
to keep boating safe for everyone. However, many accidents still occur
and it is important to know common causes and preventative measures.
The Primary Causes of Boating Accidents
Listed here are the most common causes of boating accidents in the U.S.
Injuries caused by boat accidents can include drowning, head trauma, hypothermia,
anoxic brain injury, and broken bones.
Improper Forward Watch: When operating a boat, the driver must always scan forward for anything
that could potentially cross the boat’s path. Even when drifting
or trolling, striking an object at slow speed can cause catastrophic damages
and send a passenger overboard. Collisions most commonly result due to
the operator’s lack of watch.
Capsizing: This is the leading cause of boating accident fatalities. Many accidents
occur in twilight when light conditions and alcohol may induce poor judgment.
Anchoring from the stern (rear) also increase the risk of capsizing for
smaller vessels because boats are designed to cut through waves bow (front)
first. A sudden gushing swell or rogue wave impacting the boat’s
stern can result in instant swamping – causing the boat to capsize.
Man Overboard: Rough weather, choppy waters and/or abrupt maneuvering can send a boater
overboard. Powerboats can turn with enough momentum shift to eject an
occupant if he/she is caught off-guard or not seated securely. When a
sailboat turns, the sail’s boom swings across the deck as it changes
position in the wind and can easily knock a passenger into the water while
causing significant trauma at the same time.
Prevention Tips for the Primary Causes of Boating Accidents
Preventing Improper Forward Watch: The operator/driver/captain of the boat must scan forward at all times,
occasionally glancing to each side to check for other approaching vessels
and other potential dangers. Check in all directions (360 degrees) prior
to turning, slowing down, or changing directions. Even with power off
and the boat adrift, the owner/captain must be attentive to the water
surrounding the vessel.
Preventing Capsizing: If people are consuming alcohol on a boat, always designate a driver who
will not drink, just like with an automobile. Take extra care maneuvering
and docking in twilight and at night. If using an anchor, always secure
it from the bow (front) of the boat, never the (stern) rear or from either side.
Preventing Man Overboard: Best practices include keeping everyone seated while a boat is in motion.
A good powerboat captain/driver should observe passenger positions when
preparing to turn to ensure everyone is secure and aware.