Summer brings idyllic temperatures and sunny evenings, and many living or vacationing in Ohio will take advantage of the weather and spend time on residential boats this summer. Boating is incredibly popular in Ohio, and the state ranks in the top 10 for registered residential boating vessels. For all of the fun that adventuring on the water can bring, there are hazards that we cannot ignore. Boating fatalities have surged recently, and July is the most dangerous month for boating accidents. According to recent data from the Coast Guard, 1 in 5 residential boating accidents occurred in July. Additionally, boating fatalities are higher in the summer months.
Like car crashes, some Ohio boating accidents have causes beyond anyone’s control. Unexpected hazardous weather, for example, can lead to an unavoidable collision. But statistics show that most residential boating crashes — nearly 60% — occur due to operator error. Reckless boating takes lives every year, and it’s entirely preventable. Boat operators may let their guard down because of their experience or allow a sunny day to lull them into a false sense of security.
Top Causes of Ohio Boating Accidents
Driver Inattention: Distracted driving is a known problem on the roads, but it’s also an issue on our waterways. Driver inattention was the leading cause of boating accidents in 2020. A boating operator might get distracted by a smartphone or what’s happening on the vessel.
Driver Inexperience: Ohio requires mandatory education for anyone operating a boat powered by more than ten horsepower. Boat operators must complete either a proficiency test or a water course. However, these requirements don’t necessarily mean that a licensed boater is ready for all the challenges the water may bring.
Improper Lookout: When driving a car, you must have an eye on the road and any potential hazards at all times. The same principle applies to boaters. They must maintain a proper lookout, which means an unobstructed view of the water and all surroundings. If a boat operator has blind spots, it can have serious consequences.
Speeding: Speeding is one of the most pervasive problems in Ohio waters. The speed limit on state park lakes is only 10 miles per hour, but boaters regularly exceed this restriction. When a boat goes too fast, it’s difficult for the operator to turn to avoid obstacles or come to a safe stop. Speeding boats also cause danger for smaller vessels.
Alcohol use: It’s culturally ingrained to think it’s normal when people drink alcohol on boats. But operating a boat and drinking alcohol don’t mix. It’s illegal to steer a boat while under the influence of drugs or alcohol in Ohio, but that doesn’t stop people from breaking the rules. Drunk boaters are more likely to drive recklessly, ignore warning signs, and show disregard for the vessels around them.
Where Ohio Boating Accidents Happen
In 2020, Ohio saw 163 boating accidents. That means someone in Ohio was roughly involved in a boating crash every two days. These crashes caused more than $3 million in damages and took place in lakes, rivers, and ponds around the state. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources tracks fatal boating accidents, and their database shows where boating tragedies are happening statewide. Northeast Ohio leads for tragic boating crashes, while Northwest Ohio sees its fair share.
Additionally, powerboats lead the way for fatal accidents, with canoes and kayaks coming in second. The average victim of a deadly Ohio boating accident is a 40s-something male. The database also found that the leading causes of Ohio fatal boating accidents are alcohol use and driver inattention, which matches national trends. Lakes are the most common waterway for fatal Ohio incidents, followed by rivers. Lake Erie, The Cuyahoga River, The Sandusky River, and Kelley’s Island are all sites of tragic accidents.
In a vehicle crash, passengers are usually wearing seatbelts. When a boating accident happens, passengers often move around the boat, which increases the risk of injury. They might be thrown overboard, hurtled into metal railings, or injured by loose projectiles. Some common injuries that result from boating crashes include:
- Internal organ damage
- Broken bones
- Scrapes and bruises
How To Stay Safe On The Water This Summer
You can take steps to stay safe while boating, whether you’re the boat operator or a passenger. First, ensure that the boat has a safety kit with first aid supplies. Ensure all passengers wear life jackets, regardless of age, and keep an eye on weather forecasts to avoid storms.
Once on the boat, don’t distract the operator from the task at hand. Discourage cell phone use and other inattentive behaviors. If you see another boat operator behaving recklessly or drinking excessively, you can call the Coast Guard National Response Center at 877-24WATCH to report the behavior.
You should talk to an Ohio boat accident lawyer if you suffer injuries after a boating accident caused by reckless behavior. Murray & Murray can help you recover damages for your physical, emotional, and financial losses. Contact us today via online form or by phone at 419-664-3711.
Partner at Murray & Murray Co., L.P.A.