Top 10 Boating Accident Causes

According to the United States Coast Guard (USCG), 4,062 accidents that involved 560 deaths, 2,620 injuries, and approximately $39 million dollars of damage to property occurred in 2013 from the direct result of recreational boating accidents.

It is no surprise that the leading cause of these boat accidents were alcohol related. Operating under the influence (OUI) has similar penalties as drinking and driving a motor vehicle. Many boat operators believe that it is acceptable to drink while boating without realizing the high risk for causing a major accident.

Arizona ranks fifth when it comes to the number of boating accidents on the water and seventh for total number of injuries. Considering these statistics, boaters have a responsibility to do their part when it comes to practicing safe boating.

Boating accidents have a wide range of causes, some of which are unavoidable (true accidents).  Knowing the following top 10 causes of boat accidents along with remembering important water safety tips your odds as a boat operator to ever fall into the accident statistics will greatly be reduced.

Top 10 Boating Accident Causes

List is in order of boating accident causes from highest to lowest. The second number shows the order for causes of fatal accidents.

  • 1. Operator Inattention (#2 cause for fatalities) – Staying attentive at all times while boating is critical as a boat operator. Being the main cause of accidents proves the ease of distraction while boating. Knowing your surroundings at all times will help avoid last second movement and possibly hitting objects.
  • 2. Improper Lookout (#7 cause for fatalities) - Similar to operator inattention, not properly having your surrounding visible is the second highest cause of boating accidents. A boat operator needs to have unobstructed views around the vessel to ensure a clear path.
  • 3. Operator Inexperience (#5 cause for fatalities) – Boating does not require much education, by law, therefore many operators are not experienced or educated properly. Not only is it a good idea to take a boating education class but building up experience operating a boat is absolutely necessary. Similar to operating any motor vehicle, it takes a lot of time to become familiar with all aspects of a boat and to become adequately knowledgeable of its ability.
  • 4. Excessive Speed (#6 cause for fatalities) - Maintaining a safe speed, depending on many factors, is imperative for turning and avoiding other vessels. Some types of water allows for higher speeds than others. Use careful judgment when deciding on a safe speed while boating.
  • 5. Machinery Failure (#9 cause for fatalities) – Maintaining a boat is a large part of ownership responsibility. Being the 5th cause of boating accidents proves the importance of keeping a well maintained vessel.
  • 6. Alcohol Use (#1 cause for fatalities) - – Even though alcohol related accidents comes in as the 6th leading cause it remains the #1 cause of fatal boating accidents. Arizona has cracked down on OUI’s by having similar consequences as a DUI (driving under the influence). The legal blood alcohol limit is .08 in both cases.
  • 7. Navigation Rules Violation (#8 cause for fatalities) – Believe it or not, boating has proper navigation rules. Knowing these rules can save your life from a head on collision. Taking a boating education class as mentioned in #3 will teach you the appropriate navigation rules for Arizona waters.
  • 8. Force of Wave or Wake (#10 cause for fatalities) - Weather related waves or artificially caused wakes from other vessels can be tragic if not navigated properly. Understanding how to proceed over these will prevent anything from passenger ejections to full role overs.
  • 9. Hazardous Waters (#3 cause for fatalities) – Many types of hazardous waters can be the culprit of a boat accident. If boating on a holiday weekend thousands of boats can cause congestion to the point of highly dangerous waters. Strong currents, shallow water, rocks, and many other hazards can cause a major accident.
  • 10. Weather (#4 cause for fatalities) - Even weather in Arizona can turn quickly becoming dangerous on any body of water. Knowing the forecast and closely monitoring the skies while boating is a must for boaters. The dangers that can arise from a severe storm, especially on a large body of water like Lake Powell, can be disastrous. Some weather storms are powerful enough to capsize smaller vessels leaving passengers in extremely dangerous situations.

Operating a boat safely requires education and practice. Even though some accidents are unavoidable, having the knowledge that goes along with being a responsible boat owner will greatly decrease the chances for a disaster. In the case an accident occurs that you are not at fault contacting a boat accident attorney may be a good idea.