Sacramento and the rest of Northern California benefit from ideal weather nearly all year-round. Furthermore, there are plenty of nearby waterways—such as bays, lakes, rivers, and even the Pacific Ocean—throughout the region where recreational boats are allowed.
Unfortunately, many boating accidents happen every year. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, California reported a total of 1,981 boating accidents in 2014, which resulted in 224 fatalities. That equates to an average of 45 deaths per year. However, the California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways (DBW), there were 49 deaths in 2015 and 50 deaths in 2016.
Factors that Contribute to Boating Accidents
Although the use of a boat or personal watercraft can be fun and thrilling, it can—just like any motor vehicle—also be extremely dangerous. There are various ways boating accidents can occur.
The vast majority of these injuries or deaths stemfrom the following:
- Operator inexperience – Considered the leading cause of boating accidents in the United States, it is imperative for novice boaters to educate themselves on boating laws, how to navigate, how to identify and fix vessel issues, how to respond to malfunctions, basic maintenance tasks, and how to predict weather conditions.
- Operator negligence – Whether it’s speeding through a populated area or operating the boat while intoxicated, operator negligence is another leading cause of boating accidents.
- Operator inattention – Boat operators need to remain vigilant at all times. They need to avoid any distractions, such as using their cellphones, eating, drinking, and other actions.
- Rowdy passengers – Passengers who are intoxicated or obnoxious can distract the operator long enough to cause a crash. If you are operating a vessel, do not hesitate to tell passengers to behave and remain seated.
- Equipment failure – Although modern advancements in technology have made boating safer, malfunctions can still occur. You can prevent experiencing a breakdown by conducting routine maintenance, as well as performing a pre-departure checklist.
- Inclement weather conditions – Despite modern weather-tracking technology, predicting when storms will come can still be challenging. Make sure to check the weather forecast before you depart.
Tips for Safe Boating
Whether you’re an experienced boater or just starting, remember you have the choice to do all that you can to keep yourself and your passengers safe whenever you’re in the water. Prior to departing, make sure you conduct a thorough safety check to ensure everything is in working order. Check your life jackets to see if they’re in good condition. Leave your emergency radio on since it is essential for learning of any accidents, storms, or other conditions you may encounter on the water. Keep an eye on your speed and obey all posted speed limit and wake zone signs. Always follow the rules of the waterway. Lastly, under no circumstances should you operate a boat or watercraft under the influence of alcohol or drugs.