How To Stay Safe When Boating This Summer, Says NY and PA Personal Injury Lawyer

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As our summer heats up, more people are heading for their nearest river or lake for some water recreation to keep cool and spend time with family and friends. There will be food and drink, including some alcohol … and we hope some life jackets.

From paddleboards to motor boats, getting out on your favorite body of water for some fun is a great way to beat the summer heat, but only if you are prepared and sober and drug-free.

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation reports there were 15 fatal boating-related accidents in Upstate New York in 2017. The 15 deaths in 2017 included two in  Twin Tiers lakes, according to news reports:

  • A kayaker was killed April 17 when the kayak he was operating capsized on Almond Lake in Steuben County. He was not wearing a life jacket.
  • A motorboat passenger was killed Aug. 10 when he was ejected from his seat and run over by a boat on Waneta Lake in Schuyler County. He had marijuana in his system and was not wearing a life jacket.

The other deaths involved capsized canoes, a pedal boat accident, a paddleboard fall, swimming off a motor boat, a capsized rowboat, and a cabin swamped by a wave and sunk in rough waters.

In many cases, there were not life jackets or any personal flotation devices. Alcohol and drug use were reported in some cases.

According to national recreational boating statistics from the U.S. Coast Guard, in 2017, there were about 4,291 accidents that involved 658 deaths, 2,629 injuries and about $46 million in property damage as a result of crashes.

The fatality rate of 5.5 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels was a 6.8 percent decrease from the 2016 fatality rate of 5.9 deaths per 100,000.

The number of accidents decreased 3.9 percent from 2016 to 2017. In addition, the number of deaths decreased 6.1 percent and the number of injuries fell 9.4 percent.

Let’s keep decreasing those numbers. Remember your life jackets and don’t use drugs or alcohol before or during boating.

Remember: If you are the operator of a boat you should ensure that your passengers are wearing life jackets (when required or appropriate for the conditions) and are not dangerously intoxicated or impaired.  If you feel that it’s unsafe for your passengers to be out on the water, you should do the right thing and get to shore.  Never forget:  YOU are the captain of the ship.

Here is why: 76 percent of fatal boating accident victims drowned, and of those drowning victims with reported life jacket use, 84.5 percent were not wearing a life jacket.

Finally, alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents, according to the report.

Boating safety courses are not required under state law for anyone born before 1996, but with summer upon us, I would encourage everyone to take boating education seriously and consider taking the course.

Important information from the New York State Boaters Guide:

Motor Boat Education Requirements:

  • Operators born on or after May 1, 1996, must have a boating safety certificate and be at least 10 years of age.
  • Operators who are younger than 18 years of age must be accompanied by a person who is at least 18 years of age or older and is the holder of a boating safety certificate or not required by law to hold a certificate.
  • The operator is the owner of a recently purchased motor boat, if required by law to hold a boating safety certificate may operate the vessel without the required certificate for up to 120 days from date of purchase.
  • Persons 18 years of age or older may rent a motor boat without a boating safety certificate provided that the operator of the livery holds a certificate, demonstrates the use of the vessel and safety equipment, and the person renting demonstrates their understanding of the vessels operation and safety equipment. Those under the age of 18 must have a boating safety certificate in order to rent a vessel.

Motor Boat Operators Exempted From Having To Hold A Boating Safety Certificate:

  • Persons born before May 1, 1996.
  • Certified New York Safe boating instructors.
  • Members of the USCG Auxiliary or US Power Squadron.
  • Persons licensed by NYS Parks, the United States Coast Guard or Canadian Coast Guard to operate commercial vessels.
  • Police officers, peace officers, fire and rescue personnel, and life guards when acting pursuant to assigned duties
  • A resident of another state or country who is the holder of a valid boating safety certificate issued according to the laws of their home state or country

Before you hit the water, remember to keep safety in mind!

Thanks for reading,

Jim

James Reed
Managing Partner
Best Lawyers’ “2015 & 2017 Lawyer of the Year”
NY & PA Injury & Malpractice Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: NYInjuryLawBlog.com and
            NYBikeAccidentBlog.com

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