Getting out on a boat is often associated with leisure time and relaxation, but it’s not something that should be taken lightly.
When they’re not operated safely, boats can be extremely dangerous to the people driving them, their passengers, and others on the water. And when boaters cause accidents that injure others, they can be held liable for their damages.
In this blog, we’ll discuss some of the most common types of negligence that lead to boating accidents in Oklahoma.
Boating Under the Influence
For many people, drinking alcohol goes hand-in-hand with a day spent on the water. But just as you shouldn’t get behind the wheel of a car, truck, or SUV if you’ve been drinking, you also shouldn’t drive a boat.
The legal blood alcohol content (BAC) limit for driving a boat is the same as it is for driving a car—0.08%. Driving a boat with a BAC at that level or higher not only puts you at risk of being charged with boating under the influence (BUI), but it can also increase your risk of causing a serious accident. And yes, you could be pulled out by a police boat if they suspect you are driving a boat while intoxicated.
People who drive boats while intoxicated are more likely to injure themselves and others because they experience symptoms such as:
- Impaired judgment
- Impaired vision
- Slower reaction times
- Unnecessary risk-taking
Not Following Right-Of-Way and Other Rules on the Water
Just as you’re required to maintain your lane on the right side of the road when driving a car, truck, or SUV, you’re also required to maintain a “lane” and abide by “right-of-way” rules on Oklahoma’s lakes.
At the link, you’ll find a full breakdown of how right-of-way works when boating, including when overtaking other boats. In general, you should always stick to the right side of the waterway when approaching other vessels, just as you would when driving on land.
You should also keep an eye out for navigational buoys and channel markers. These signs can show you where and how to navigate your boat, where wakes are forbidden, and where swimmers may be present.
Driving Too Fast
Speeding is one of the top causes of car accidents. It’s also one of the top causes of boating accidents. The faster you drive a boat, the more difficult it is to control, the less time you have to react to hazards and the movements of other vessels, and the more serious injuries are if an accident occurs.
While there is no official speed limit on areas of water not marked as slow/no-wake zones on Oklahoma’s lakes, drivers should never reach speeds that put themselves and others in danger. Boaters should also take into consideration the weather, water conditions, the number of passengers onboard, and their boating experience level when reaching a cruising speed.
Driving While Distracted
Because boating is often viewed as a social activity, and because there are typically far fewer boats on the water than vehicles on land, it’s common for boaters to become distracted while they’re behind the wheel. They may think it’s safe to turn their attention away from the water ahead for extended periods of time while talking to passengers, changing music, or reaching for items inside their boats.
As with vehicles on land, looking away even momentarily is enough to cause a serious accident. When boaters aren’t fully focused on the task at hand, they can miss hazards such as partially or fully submerged objects, heavy wakes, and approaching watercraft.
It’s important to keep your eyes on the water ahead, your hands on the steering, and your mind on the safety of yourself, your passengers, and other people on the water anytime your boat is in motion.
Overloading or Unbalancing a Boat
Boats are safest when they are under their maximum weight capacity. Don’t assume that you can have as many people on your boat as it has seats. It’s common for boats to have more total seats available than the number of passengers they’re rated to carry.
When allowing passengers onto your boat, you should also consider where they’ll be seated. Try to keep your boat properly balanced by having passengers equally divided between its port and starboard sides, and have more passengers sit in the rear of your boat than its bow. You should also ensure that passengers remain seated while your boat is in motion.
Contact Our Oklahoma Boat Accident Lawyers After an On-the-Water Injury
When people are involved in car accidents, they’re protected by their vehicles’ frames along with safety features like seat belts and airbags. But when people are involved in boat accidents, they often have few to no safety features to protect them. That means even relatively low-speed accidents can cause severe injuries.
If you or someone you love is injured in a boat accident, Parrish DeVaughn Injury Lawyers wants to help. We’ve helped many injured Oklahomans get compensation after boat accidents that weren’t their fault, and we want to help you, too. Place your trust in our experience and track record of success. Contact us today for a free consultation to learn how we can help.