As the weather heats up, many Arizonans flock to the state’s lakes for some boating fun. Whether you just float on your boat for relaxation or go wild with your jet ski, remember to stay safe on the water. While Arizona boat accidents occur less often than car accidents, for example, they do still happen, partly due to a lack of caution on the part of the driver. In fact, the leading cause for the 4,500 boating accidents reported to the U.S. Coast Guard last year was alcohol (American Boating Association).
If you plan on operating any watercrafts, such as a boat or Jet Ski, do an equipment check before setting it into the water and make sure you know the laws of the lake. Make sure all parts are operating correctly and have adequate oil and fuel levels. Check the belts to make sure they’re not slacking, as they could cause a mechanical fail while on the body of water and away from any docks.
Arizona Game and Fish requires all watercraft owners to possess a boat license. Keep in mind that this is different than the boating card. According to Boat Arizona Course, a boating card is simply a certification that shows you completed an approved safety course for boating. A boat license, on the other hand, is like a vehicle registration for motorized vehicles that function on bodies of water.
To help prevent catastrophic events from happening lakeside, the Mesa personal injury lawyers at Skousen, Gulbrandsen & Patience, PLC recommend you apply the following safety tips.
How To Prevent Boating Accidents (And Stay Safe)
1. Be sure your boat or boat accessories are maintained properly. Failure to maintain any mechanical equipment for water use puts you at liability for a negligence injury suit if any injuries or fatalities should occur on your machinery.
2. Do not allow any boat passengers on board unless they know how to swim and how to use water safety equipment such as life jackets and emergency floating devices.
3. Watch overall weight on board. If there is too much weight for the boat or vessel’s size, you are at risk of capsizing (overturning) or swamping (filled with water). Manufacturers are required to place labels near any operational equipment to ensure safety requirements are visible and observed, so check your boat for details on weight restrictions.
4. Get a boat permit, license and insurance. Just like with automobiles, you must have a license to operate a boat and retain insurance. If the driver is negligent and a passenger is hurt, the liability falls on the driver.
5. Know the laws and navigational rules of the water within your state. A boat operator has the duty to handle equipment responsibly, including the operation of the vehicle.
6. As with all vehicles, avoid excessive speeds because they can incur citations. Speeding also impairs your ability to foresee any potential accidents and control the vessel.
7. Go boating when the waters are less likely to be overpopulated. Memorial Day weekend is a popular seasonal boating opportunity; however if the area is congested with other boaters, you increase the likelihood of a water-based accident.
8. Keep your passengers and skiers complaint with your water vessel’s safety rules. You are required to display a red or orange flag whenever you have active skiers in the water. Designate an observer to keep an eye on the skier and alert you/them or any potential threats. If your passengers obstruct your view or refuse to remain seated as you are operating the vehicle, you can get a citation for passenger negligence.
9. Don’t drink while on the water! Being inebriated can lead to poor decision making, and being in deep bodies of water while buzzed or drunk could lead to a drowning. NOTE: Arizona Game and Fish and several other law enforcement organizations patrol the waters to keep the peace and issue citations for any faults including intoxication, rowdiness or defective mechanical equipment. Fines for extreme DUI on watercrafts can reach up to $2,500 (Boat Ed AZ Law).
10. Bring enough personal flotation devices (life jackets) for everyone in your party. The three most common worn life jackets are separated by categories designed by activity type: offshore, near-shore and inflatable. Don’t let the names fool you; they are also categorized as Type I, Type II and Type III to indicate their effectiveness in keeping an individual afloat in various current conditions until rescue crews can reach them if needed.
11. Bring plenty of water and protein. Just because the lakes are cooler than the desert areas doesn’t mean that you’ll be less likely to get dehydrated. Stay hydrated with plenty of water or juices. Eating protein-full meals or snacks will also keep you full if you’re planning on being gone all day. Otherwise, consider water-based fruits, such as watermelon, cucumber, berries, and more to stay hydrated that way too.
12. Assign an emergency contact in case of emergencies and also to let them know when you leave and anticipate returning. This way, if you have not returned or notified them of a later estimated time of arrival, they can then notify emergency officials. Also keep their contact information handy on the boat and/or in your vehicle, so they can reach them if something has happened to you.
13. Always have your cell phone for location tracking. Activate your GPS mode, and place the phone either in a plastic bag or an Otterbox case while you’re on the water. This way if something happens, you can notify emergency officials and provide geographical location based on your phone’s GPS signal.
It is possible to escape triple digit heat and cool off with some adult water fun, but the keys are to use common sense and be safe to avoid any injuries or drownings. If you or a friend is injured while on the water from boat operator negligence or even mechanical defects, seek the assistance of a personal injury lawyer to consider your options for seeking an injury settlement.
Being a part of a disastrous water injury is a traumatic experience, especially when it is the fault of the boat operator. Follow the above safety tips to ensure you are not served with a negligence lawsuit. If you or a loved one has been injured in a watercraft due to boat operator negligence, contact SGP Law to begin your injury claim today!