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Michael Lewis
Michael Lewis
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Driving a Boat Is Not Child's Play

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Hundreds of lives are lost each year due to recreational boating accidents. But you – the passenger or boat operator – can make a difference by adhering to safe boating standards.

In 2009, there were 4,730 recreational boating accidents that involved 736 deaths, 3358 injuries and an estimated $36 million dollars of damage to property, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

Boating Safety

First and foremost, practice safety at all times. It is important for the driver as well as passengers to use common sense for their own safety.

It goes without saying that the driver of the boat should not use alcohol and the passengers should not be permitted to do so either.

Similar to rules that govern the flow of traffic for vehicles, there also rules for maneuvering a boat, which is referred to as Navigation Rules, also known as “Nav Rules” or “Rules of the Road”. The rules teach boaters safe boating protocol as outlined by the U.S. Coast Guard.

All boat drivers should participate in some type of boat safety course and receive a certificate of completion. Find an NASBLA approved Boating Education Course.

It’s vial to learn and know the rules of the water before getting behind the wheel. The driver of the boat should be familiar with all parts of the boat, particularly the safety equipment.

Life jackets could have saved an estimated 80 percent of boating fatality victims, according to the Coast Guard. It is safest to wear a life jacket at all times as it will be nearly impossible to reach a stowed life jacket in the event of an emergency.

A float plan should be in place prior boarding the boat. The Skipper of the vessel is typically the person who prepares the Float Plan. Without a plan in place an emergency situation can quickly become confusing and turn from bad to worse.

An observer should be appointed as the lookout during times that anyone is off the boat tubing or skiing.

Local Agencies and the Coast Guard have the authority to board your boat at any time to ensure compliance of regulations and equipment rules.

Federal law mandates the operator of the boat to report any boating accident to your state reporting authority.

This is by no means a complete list of boating safety, but it refers to some of the most common rules of the water.

Contributory Negligence

North Carolina is 1 of 4 states that still follows pure contributory negligence rules. In the simplest of terms, under contributory negligence, plaintiffs are denied recovery in injury actions if they are found to have even 1% of fault despite the defendant being 99% at fault.

In other words, the defendant has the burden of proving that the plaintiff’s own actions or inactions contributed to the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries.

How does this affect your boating adventure? Should an accident occur and you were not practicing safety rules, you may be denied recovery of your injury.

Not knowing the rules of the road is not a valid defense in a boating accident. Visit the Coast Guard Web site and get familiar with Boating: Rules of the Road.