Hitting the lake together as a family is a great way to enjoy yourself while social distancing during COVID-19, get back to nature, and make valuable memories together. But boating holds many dangers that many families are not sufficiently prepared for. When the proper precautions aren’t taken, things can go wrong very quickly, and your family’s dream day on the water can quickly turn into a nightmare. Contact the Don Turner Legal Team if you or someone you love has sustained injuries in a boating accident.
What Can I Do to Keep My Family Safe on the Water?
Before you and your family decide to spend a fun afternoon on the water, make sure that you follow these essential boating safety tips:
- Everyone should wear a life jacket: While life jackets are not mandatory for anyone over 13 in Georgia, anyone riding a boat should wear one, even people who consider themselves good swimmers. When someone falls off a boat, they can become dazed or may be knocked unconscious. A life jacket will help keep their head above the water, making them easier to rescue. Over 76% of boating deaths in 2017 were from drowning, and 84% of these drowning victims were not wearing a life jacket. You do not want to take that kind of risk.
Make sure the life jacket you choose is US Coast Guard approved by looking for the USCG stamp on the inside of the life jacket. You also want to ensure that your life jacket fits properly for your size and weight, can be properly fastened, and does not ride up over your face when your arms are lifted.
- Be prepared before you head out: Make sure that your boat is in good working order, so your family isn’t surprised by unforeseen equipment failure while you’re out on the water. Keep a pre-departure checklist with essentials such as a first aid kit, so you can be ready for anything that might happen on the water. Click here for a list of 12 essential items everyone should have on their boat.
Additionally, make sure you are dressed properly for the weather, don’t forget the sunscreen, and make sure you know the warning signs and symptoms of heat illnesses, as the hot Georgia can get to many of us, even as we enjoy our afternoon on the water.
- Get educated: Familiarize yourself with Georgia’s boating laws before you set off on the water. You should also get familiar with the “rules of the road” by taking a National Association of Boating Law Administrators safety course. Many boating accidents occur when boat operators don’t know how to operate their boat properly or disregard boating laws. Make sure you are not one of these operators.
- File a float plan with someone you trust: A float plan is an overview of your planned boating trip that will give the authorities a head start in looking for you and your family if you fail to make it to your destination. A good float plan should include a description of your boat, how many people will be on board, your destination, your contact information, and the general time frame of your outing.
You should file your float plan with a family member, a close friend, a marina officer, or anyone else you can trust to contact your local maritime law enforcement agency if something happens to you. The US Coast Guard has an app for creating a float plan, which you can download here.
- Use good judgment while on the water: Do not attempt to operate a boat while under the influence and do not operate your boat at unsafe speeds. Keep an eye out for hazardous conditions while you are operating your boat and assign one or two other passengers on the boat to help act as your lookout. If signs of inclement weather conditions occur, such as dark clouds, a sudden decrease in temperature, or a sudden increase in wind speed, exercise due caution and get off of the water.
- Keep your kids safe: When children get bored and restless, accidents can occur. Make sure to pay attention to what your kids are up to while you are on the water. Be sure your children know how to swim and teach them the difference between swimming in open water and swimming in a pool. Discourage your children from diving into oceans, lakes, or rivers, as you never know how deep the water is or what sort of hazards could be lurking beneath the water.
Make sure to keep your little ones warm, since infants and younger children are at a greater risk for hypothermia. If your kids appear to be cold or are shivering, wrap them tightly in a dry blanket or in a towel so they can warm up.
Why Do Boating Accidents Happen?
Many boating accidents happen simply because the operator of the boat was inexperienced. Other times, the operator was not paying proper attention to hazards, such as shoals, currents, or shallow waters, or failed to acknowledge inclement weather conditions. The lack of a lookout also contributes to many boating accidents. Conditions on the water can change in an instant, which is why it is so essential that an operator be attentive and prepared for anything that could potentially go wrong.
Boating accidents can also be caused when the operator of a boat decides to engage in reckless behavior, such as operating the boat at excessive speeds, operating the boat while under the influence, or violating navigational rules. Equipment failure that could have been detected with proper boat maintenance beforehand is another major contributor to boating accidents.
A boating accident can be devastating. Boat propellers can severely injure anyone in their path and falling overboard can lead to traumatic injuries or even death by drowning. The decks and surfaces of boats also carry a significant risk of slip and fall injuries. Thankfully, many boating accidents are preventable, as long as you exercise due caution and make sure that you are prepared for anything that may happen.
Still, always be aware that things can still go wrong while boating at any moment, be it due to operator negligence or unforeseen manufacturing defects. If you or someone you love is injured in a boating accident, be sure to contact the Don Turner Legal Team. Our attorneys have years of experience handling personal injury cases like yours and can help you get the compensation you deserve.