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Boating Accidents – How to Prevent Common Injuries

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Posted on August 13, 2013

With summertime in full swing, another boating season is upon us. Unfortunately, the increase in the number of boaters also increases the likelihood for boating accidents and related injuries. The state of Florida offers safety training and awareness programs to keep boating safe for everyone, but accidents can still happen.

3 Common Boating Accidents and Best Practices for Prevention

Below is a list of leading causes for boating-related injuries and fatalities along with recommendations for prevention:

1. Capsizing: This is the leading cause of fatalities from boating accidents. Many accidents occur in twilight when light conditions and alcohol may both play a role. Anchoring from the stern (rear) also exposes smaller vessels to an increased risk of capsizing. Boats are designed to cut through water and swells (front) first. A sudden gushing swell or rogue wave impacting the stern can swamp the boat.

Prevention: Just like a car, boaters should always designate a driver if alcohol is involved. Take extra care maneuvering and docking in twilight and at night. If using an anchor, secure it from the bow (front) of the boat, not the rear or side.

2. Improper Forward Watch: An accident can occur if the boater does not keep a watchful for anything that may cross the boat’s path. Even when drifting or trolling, striking an object at slow speed can spell disaster or send a passenger overboard. Collisions typically occur due driver distraction.

Prevention: The driver of the vessel must keep eyes forward at all times, occasionally glancing to each side to check for other approaching vessels. Check in all directions prior to turning or changing directions. Even with power off and the boat adrift, the driver must be aware of what’s happening in the water surrounding the vessel.

3. Man Overboard: Rough weather/waters and maneuvering can send a boater overboard. Powerboats turn with enough force to eject an occupant if he/she is caught off guard or is 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 and cause significant injury at the same time.

Prevention: It is best to keep everyone seated while a boat is in motion. A good powerboat captain should ensure all passengers are secure when preparing to turn. On a sailboat, protocol calls for the skipper to warn occupants of an impending turn by calling out: “Prepare to jibe” and then “Jibe ho!” as the turn is executed.

Each year, injuries related to the accidents listed above affect boaters and their passengers. Best practices and limiting alcohol consumption can help prevent the following common boating related injuries:

  • Head Injuries
  • Bone Fractures
  • Hypothermia
  • Heat Exhaustion / Stroke
  • Bleeding
  • Oxygen Deprivation (Drowning)

Florida Boating Law & Safety

As of 2010, all boat operators born after 1 Jan 1988 must possess a valid boating Safety Education ID Card. The course has been designed by the state of Florida to ensure an increase in safety and personal awareness in the next generation of boaters.

Additional safety training and resources, as well of a list of all boating laws, can be found by accessing the Florida Wildlife and Conservation Commission website or by contacting the US Coast Guard Auxiliary for information on additional safety and first aid training.


National Assoc. of Rescue Divers – Common Boating Accidents

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