In the age of new and advancing technology, distracted driving due to smartphones, GPS devices, iPads, and other devices pose serious risks on roads and highways. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines distracted driving as any type of action or activity that takes a driver’s attention away from the duty of driving. These distractions can include talking and engaging with passengers, drinking and eating, changing the radio, interacting with a small child in the back seat, and controlling a pet. But distracted driving doesn’t just happen on the road. It also happens over water. Boat operators who become distracted while driving watercraft can also cause serious boating accidents.
Types of Accidents
In 2018, there were 633 fatalities and 2,511 injuries in the over 4,000 boating accidents that occurred in the U.S. According to the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Florida has the highest number of boating accidents of all 50 states. To be a safer boat operator, it’s important to understand the most common types of boating accidents that take place on Florida waterways:
- Colliding with another watercraft. Distracted driving while operating a watercraft can result in a collision with another boat. It’s easy to become distracted if people are fishing, partying, or picnicking on the vessel while you’re driving. Being pulled into the activities and festivities can cause you to crash into another moving boat. In the same way car drivers owe a duty of care to other drivers on the road, a boat operator must handle their boat with caution and care for other boaters.
- Flooding and swamping. A pop-up rainstorm can flood a boat and sink it more quickly than people realize. Additionally, large waves or wakes can swamp a boat. In 2016, these types of accidents caused 90 deaths and over 150 injuries.
- Colliding with a fixed object. In 2016, there were over 550 accidents that involved a boat operator colliding with a fixed object such as a channel marker, a dock, pilings, a pier, or other stationary objects.
- Grounding. If you operate your boat in shallow water, it’s possible to run aground onto a sand bar, rocks, or a shoal, and the sudden stop can thrust your passengers into hard objects within the boat or overboard into the water or onto a dock. There were over 400 of these types of accidents reported in 2016.
- Capsizing accidents. Nearly all boats that capsize are caused by one of three things: poor weight distribution, a leak, or bad weather. A small windstorm or gale can easily flip a small boat, and a boat can be overtaken by a large wave.
Types of Boating Injuries
Most often, boating injuries occur when a person falls overboard, there’s a collision with another boat, or the watercraft capsizes. When these types of accidents occur, boat passengers and the operator can face a wide range of serious injuries, including:
- Head injuries. Many boat accidents happen when the watercraft is traveling at high speed. When a passenger or the boat operator is thrown suddenly against any hard object during a collision, it can result in a traumatic brain injury (TBI).
- Spinal cord injuries. Boaters, water skiers, para sailors, and jet skiers are especially susceptible to sustaining spinal cord injuries during a boat collision. These types of injuries can result in partial or full paralysis.
- Broken bones. A boat collision can leave passengers and the operator of the watercraft with broken bones. Common bone breaks include a broken femur, broken pelvis, broken shin bones, and more serious injuries such as skull, neck, and spine fractures.
- Burns. Boaters can suffer burns when a fire or an explosion occurs during a boat collision. These burns can permanently scar the person, cause post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or possibly cause a partial disability. The impact of a severe burn injury may affect the quality of a person’s life forever.
How a Florida Boat Accident Lawyer Can Help
If you or a loved one suffered injuries in a boating accident you believe was caused by a distracted boat operator, Attorney Coy H. Browning can help. He was a Florida State Trooper before he became an attorney and knows how to investigate and gather evidence, and present convincing arguments needed to get the compensation you deserve.