No one thinks they might get into a boating accident when they set sail on Alabama lakes. The weather is hot and they just want to relax and cool down with family and friends. However, the United States Coast Guard reports an average of 4,000 boating accidents and 625 fatalities every year. Drowning causes more than 75 percent of all fatal accidents on the water. In its most recent report from 2015, the Coast Guard stated that 85 percent of those who drown in a boating accident were not wearing a life jacket.
Life Jackets Save Lives
Alabama law requires that each boat in operation to have one life jacket available for the driver and every passenger on board. The life jackets must be Coast Guard approved, in serviceable condition, readily available, and the proper size for each person on board. Coast Guard approved life jackets are Type I, II, III, or V. However, operators of vessels longer than 16 feet must have at least one Type IV life jacket available and it needs to be readily accessible.
Children age eight and under must wear a life jacket approved by the Coast Guard any time they are on a moving boat. The only exception to this is if they are in an enclosed cabin. Anyone on board a personal watercraft or who is being towed behind a boat must wear a Coast Guard approved life jacket the entire time. Additionally, the operator and passengers of a boat located 800 feet below a navigation lock and dam or a hydroelectric dam must wear a Type I, II, III, or V life jacket approved by the Coast Guard.
These requirements can be hard to remember, so your best bet is to simply wear your life jacket and ask your family and friends to do the same whenever you go boating.
Alcohol and Boating Are Never a Good Combination
In Alabama, it’s illegal to operate any type of watercraft while under the influence of alcohol, controlled substances, or illegal drugs. For legal purposes, a boat driver is intoxicated when his or her blood alcohol concentration is .08 or higher. A first violation can result in loss of operator’s license for 90 days, imprisonment for up to one year, and a fine up to $2,100.
Considering all that’s at stake, we at Alsobrook Jackson, Attorneys at Law recommend not mixing boating and alcohol. This goes for both the operator and the passengers, since intoxicated passengers can engage in risky behavior and be distracting to the driver.
Pay Attention to the Weather
Before heading out on the boat, be sure to access a weather report for your local area in Alabama. If you see rain, storms, or any type of severe weather in the forecast, save your boating for another day. High winds on the water can cause dangerous wakes and waves and is one of the leading causes of boating accidents. If you’re surprised by inclement weather while boating, get to land as quickly as possible.
Make Sure the Boat Has Been Properly Maintained
When you own a boat, you need to ensure that it receives regular maintenance just like your car. If you don’t know how to do the maintenance yourself, hire someone to check the engine, fluid levels, and general condition of the boat at least a few times a year. Additionally, the Coast Guard Auxiliary recommends that all boat owners compile a pre-departure inspection list and go through it every time they operate the vessel. If you are a passenger on a boat, don’t feel shy about asking the boat owner if he or she does this. The Coast Guard Auxiliary recommends the following at a minimum:
- Operator’s license
- Current registration card
- Boating safety course completion card
- Check oil level and fuel supply
- Ensure navigation lights work properly when boating after dark
- Proper number of life jackets in the right sizes available
- Global Positioning System works properly
- Marine radio
- Float plan left with a friend
- First aid kit, tools, and signaling devices
We’re Here for Victims of Boating Accidents
While we hope you never experience an accident on the water, our experienced Alabama personal injury attorneys are available if you do. Please contact attorneys Zach Alsobrook or Raymond Jackson in Opelika, Alabama to request your free consultation. Our firm can be reached at (334) 737-3718 or online through our convenient contact form.