As Spring Break approaches, many New York residents are looking forward to fishing and boating. While water sports can be fun, time spent in a vehicle of any kind can be dangerous. To maximize the fun and minimize your risk of serious injury, follow our tips for avoiding boat accidents:
Tip #1 – Don’t Run Out of Gas
Before going out on the water, make sure your boat is fueled up. Being stranded in the middle of Nassau Lake or another body of water is a dangerous situation, especially if you’re too far from shore to call for help. Plan to have the fuel you need before leaving the dock and overestimate to account for storms and unexpected detours.
Tip # 2 – Keep Your Boat in the Water
This may seem like silly advice, but people ground their boat more often than you would expect. Driving too fast or too close to the shore can easily result in you being grounded on a sandbar, or worse, crashed into a tree (yes, it happens). Sometimes, the abrupt impact can cause serious injuries or death, similar to a car accident. Other times, people push themselves back into the water without realizing their boat has a crack in the hull. Instead of facing these terrible situations, drive sober and slow down to keep your boat where it belongs (in the water).
Tip # 3 – Wear a Life Jacket (and an Emergency Cut-Off Switch Lanyard)
Falling overboard may seem like no big deal, but it can be deadly if you hit your head on the way down or find yourself unable to swim. Wearing a life jacket will ensure you float and help you preserve your energy if you get stuck in the water for long periods of time. If you are the only person in your boat when you fall overboard, your vehicle might also continue without you until it runs out of gas. Worse, you could be run down by your own boat or overwhelmed by its wake. As such, you should always wear your emergency cut-off switch lanyard. This way, if you fall overboard, your boat will power off without putting you – or anyone else – in danger.
Tip # 4 – Check Your Hull and Bilge
Sometimes, boats develop holes over time. Before you launch your boat, make sure it does not have any breaks. You can do so by wiggling your through-hulls and looking for loose connections. You should also inspect your bilge before departing and make sure your bilge pump and garboard plug (or bilge plug) are in place and working properly.
To avoid sinking, you should also keep wooden bungs onboard – these tapered pegs can stop water from entering a broken through-hull.
On the other hand, entirely, you should check for fuel leaks before departing to prevent the possibility of a fire. You can usually smell a fuel leak on the bilge or see a rainbow-like slick on bilge water. Other precautions include running the bilge blower for at least 5 minutes before starting your engine (you should never start a marine engine without doing this) and having a working fire extinguisher onboard.
Tip #5 – Be Prepared
Many serious boating accidents are the result of mechanical failure. If your boat breaks down or won’t start because of a faulty battery, you can end up stranded and nearly invisible. Check your battery before going out, monitor battery levels throughout your trip, and be prepared for the worst-case scenario – an accident at night with no lights and no way to call for help.
Being prepared means carrying a flashlight and flares, as well as all the proper safety gear. This includes properly sized life vests for all passengers, a canoe paddle, and an anchor, among other useful items like fire extinguishers, a first-aid kit, food, and fresh water.
Tip #6 – Mind Your Surroundings
If you’re going out on the water, you need to pay attention to the weather. Keep a handheld radio on board or make sure your stereo system can tune into NOAA weather stations. If you know a weather event is headed your way or the weather looks questionable, don’t leave the dock. If you notice adverse weather on the horizon, turn around. When you’re the captain, it’s your job to keep yourself and everyone on board safe.
Similarly, make sure your speed adheres to the conditions around you. If it’s dark, acknowledge that there are hazards you can’t see and slow down. If there’s heavy traffic, adjust your speed accordingly. Speeding can be a particularly unforgiving factor in boating accidents and lead to serious injuries and unspeakable tragedies.
You must also maintain a proper lookout at all times. In boating, maintaining a lookout means you have your eyes, ears, focus, and other senses on the water at all times. You are responsible for preventing collisions – “I didn’t see them coming” is not a valid excuse, for you or any other boater.
Tip #7 – Wear a Life Jacket, Seriously
According to Coast Guard statistics, boaters without life jackets account for half of all drownings. If you are fishing or boating in cold waters without a life jacket, your body can shut down within a few moments and prevent you from keeping your head above water. You might also need extra support if you end up in the water during a storm or at night. Not all boating accidents are preventable and wearing a life jacket might help you survive.
Bonus Tip: What to Do If You Are Injured in a Boating Accident
Sometimes, you do everything right and life throws you a curveball. When this happens to you, and someone else causes your boating accident, you can seek compensation for any injuries you incur
The Law Offices of Charles R. Gueli can help. We are available 24/7 and you can: