West Virginians love the great outdoors; the hunting, the fishing, the ATVs and even boating. Boating has become one of the fastest growing outdoor family activities across the State of West Virginia. In fact, the number of registered boats in West Virginia has increased tremendously over the past couple of years. But with any activity that includes large groups of people, boating can lead to accidents and injuries. As recreational boaters flock to the nearest lake to enjoy this recreational activity, safety should be a major concern.
There are a few things to take into consideration when planning an outing on the lake or river. First, always be sure that you check the weather forecast. If you notice dark clouds, strong winds, or a drop in temperature, the safest decision would be to get off the water or to postpone your plans to do so. Weather can change unexpectedly and lead to a damaged boat or leaving passengers stranded. Additionally, bad weather can lead to poor, unplanned decisions that can lead to disasters on the water.
It is always a good practice to have another person on board your boat that is familiar with its operation, in case you become ill or injured. Driving a boat is similar to, but can be very different from driving a vehicle. There are different rules that you should follow. It is state law that anyone born after December 31, 1986 must complete a Boating Safety Education Course before accessing public waterways. (More information can be found through the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources) If for some reason you can no longer operate a boat, someone should be trained to allow for a safe return to shore. It is suggested that you never boat alone for this specific reason.
One of the most important safety aspects of boating is to also ensure that there is an approved lifejacket for every occupant of the boat and that they are being used at all times. Lifejackets save thousands of boaters every year. Non-swimmers who assume they are safe on a boat can end up in the water facing life threatening events. It is recommended that on top of wearing a lifejacket, you also learn to swim. Classes are usually offered at your local YMCA. Lifejackets and the knowledge of swimming are essential to safe boating either on a family outing or during a fishing excursion.
Speaking of family outings, the number one danger in boating is its mixture with alcohol. With the increase in boats comes the increase in drivers that make poor decisions and drink while driving. Boats are no different from automobiles under these circumstances. If you are impaired, do not drive a car and do not steer a boat. (Keep in mind there are normally patrols on the waterways as well, so you will be caught!)
According to the 2014 Recreational Boating Statistics compiled by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Coast Guard, 4,064 accidents occurred in the years 2014 with 610 of those resulting in death, 2,678 injuries and approximately $39 million dollars of damage to property. Operator inattention, improper lookout, operator inexperience, excessive speed, and alcohol use rank as the top five primary contributing factors in accidents with alcohol use as the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents.
We hope that you are able to enjoy the warm summer months out of water safely with your family and friends without incident. However, if you, one of your family members, or one of your friends are injured in a boating accident due to the negligence of a boat operator, we at The Miley Legal Group may be able to help.
Source: U.S. Coast Guard
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