Host a Fun and Safe Fourth of July Boat Party

 
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Boating Accidents
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Boating Safety

Complete with hot dogs, fireworks and all things red, white and blue, The Fourth of July is the United States’ annual celebration of freedom. Each year, Americans attend picnics, barbecues and firework shows to profess our love for the greatest nation this world has ever seen. And while the overall number of boat sales are declining (thanks again,  Millennials ), millions of Americans will still hit the waterways this July 4 to celebrate America’s 243rd birthday. If you’re planning a Fourth of July boat party, putting safety first will help you avoid a tragedy during your Independence Day celebrations.

Summer’s warm weather invites us to do more water activities. Unfortunately, more water activities lead to more accidents, especially serious boat crashes. Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day account for more than one-third of all boating-related accidents and fatalities.

Why do boat crashes happen?

Typically, boat crashes occur in smaller, open boats on inland waters. Further, most boating fatalities don’t happen because of bad weather or hazardous conditions. The typical crash occurs when weather and visibility are good, the winds are light and the water is calm. The top contributing factors for boat crashes include the following:

Operator inattention

The number one reason boat crashes occur is because of operator inattention. There are many possible distractions onboard a boat, as well as outside distractions. The unpredictability of the wind, weather and water requires that operators pay close attention to any and all warning signs of danger.

With streaming services and the ability to buy music on our phones, smartphones have become increasingly important to how we consume our favorite music. Newer boats have radios with Bluetooth capabilities or auxiliary cords stationed near the driver’s chair. Just like driving on roadways, safely navigating waterways requires your undivided attention. If you’re the helmsmen this holiday, don’t let your smartphone lead you to one of the two most common causes of boat crashes. 

Improper lookout

The second most cited reason for boat crashes is improper lookout. Anything from significant changes to the weather to running aground can lead to a crash or capsize. During a party, a person should be designated to keep a lookout for dangerous situations. Not watching for threats or hazards can have catastrophic consequences. 

Don’t Boat Under the Influence

One of the biggest public service announcements of the last 50 years is driving under the influence. All 50 states have driving under the influence laws, but did you also know that they have boating under the influence (BUI) laws? The criminal penalties for boating under the influence are the same as DUIs, including possible jail time, hefty fines and potential effects on your driver’s license. 

Outside of the criminal courts, you can be held liable for damages in a civil court if you injure someone while manning a water vessel while intoxicated. That said, it’s best that you don’t even take that risk. Unlike driving to a party in a car, on a boat, there is not an option to call a Lyft to pick you up.

Find a safe place to ride at anchor

It’s a boat party! And unless you’ve hired someone helm the boat the entire, you will want to enjoy your party with your friends and family. Finding a safe place to enter an anchorage or moor is the best place for you to drop anchor and enjoy your party. Many areas have places like “party coves” where several boats anchor. Look at your chart and guestimate where that area is. You don’t want to drop anchor in a highly traveled area. 

Tips for a Safe Fourth of July Boat Party

Children should wear a life jacket at all times

If your boat party is kid friendly, it’s important to have proper life jackets for your littlest passengers. In fact, in some places, this is law. Children often don’t like wearing the restricting life-saving devices—especially when they see older kids or adults not wearing them. While it may be tempting to forgo the life jacket to avoid hearing your child’s complaints, it’s best that you keep them strapped in. Accidents happen quickly—which doesn’t leave much or any time to put on a life jacket. Even a parent insists their child doesn’t need a life jacket because they’ve taken swimming lessons, underwater currents can pull children under and even adults who are strong swimmers under. Further, statistically, 80% of boating crash fatalities were not wearing life jackets. 

Ensure the required equipment is on board and properly working

Make sure your navigation equipment is in good working condition, especially if you plan to be out on the water after dark. 

Be prepared for emergencies

In addition to lifejackets, it’s equally important to familiarize your friends and family about basic emergency situations. Show them how to use the marine radio or their cell phones to contact the governing authorities for the body of water you’ll be on. Never send false distress calls! 

Float plan

A float plan is similar to a flight plan for a pilot. These plans list who is going, where you’re going, what your boat looks like and when you expect to be back. Leave this document with a trusted friend on land who can alert the proper authorities if you and your party fail to return. 

Swimming safety

It can get hot spending time on the boat, and your guests may want to dive in a cool off. However, there are some safety measures to consider when you’re ready to dive in. For example, swimming near a boat with a running engine can expose swimmers to toxic fumes. Other safety measures you and your boat guests should consider include the following:

  • Swimmers should use floatation devices to enter the water gradually
  • Ensure there are plenty of floatation devices available if swimmers need
  • Do not swim in marked channels—even if there are no other boats around
  • Make sure there is an easy way to get back on the boat
  • Designate a person to keep a lookout for other boats in the area
  • Don’t swim around docked boats

Brush up on what to do in an overboard emergency

Overboard situations can occur for a number of reasons including a slippery deck or horseplay that went too far. In a real life overboard incident, there are steps you can take to save a friend or family member: 

  • Immediately stop engines 
  • Locate the position of the person in the water
  • Release a lifebuoy and toss to pick up the person who has gone overboard
  • Alert other vessels in the vicinity
  • Broadcast distress signal if necessary
  • Administer first aid once the person is recovered

Overboard situations call for fast and clear thinking. Lifejackets may be cumbersome and hot, however, they should always be worn by children or inexperienced swimmers.

Make sure your boat insurance is up to date

For some, this may go without saying, but boat insurance is essential. Boat policies cover you for liability if someone is injured while aboard your boat. In addition, it covers property damage done to another boat or dock. 

On average, approximately 8,000 boating accidents occur on 4th of July weekend. If you plan to hit the waters for a Fourth of July boat party, consider our safety tips and enjoy our playlist. The Fourth of July celebrates the freedom that so many of us enjoy. Between the warm weather, barbecues and the fireworks, what more could you ask for? However, these celebrations can quickly end your joyous occasion if tragedy strikes. Basic common sense should prevail during your Independence Day celebration.

This blog post was submitted by The Carlson Law Firm.​

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