Weather can usually be found to only be the secondary cause of most boating accidents. The primary cause is almost always attributable to other factors, such as four people getting into a 10 foot boat for an outing on the bay. They must have been planning on perfect weather, or not planning at all. When a 20-30 mph wind kicks up, it’s going to make waves, so to speak. While the weather caused the waves that capsized the boat, the boats gunnels would likely have been only a few inches above the water on a calm day.
Recalling the loss of the NFL players off Clearwater, Florida in March, weather was no doubt some factor, but the use of a simple reef anchor that could have been easily pulled free from the bottom was not onboard. Instead, the anchor rope was tied off to the stern and an attempt was made to pull the stuck anchor free with the outboard by throttling forward, resulting in the stern being pulled down and the boat capsizing.
Additionally, there was the accident just before the Memorial Day weekend, involving five fishermen who were killed when their boat ran into a parked barge in the dark near Houma, Louisiana. Weather has so far not been reported as a factor in the accident.
The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) states that weather has not been a top ten cause of boating accidents since 2002. Over the ten years between 1997 and 2007, the number of boating accidents caused by the weather dropped precipitously from 419 to 148. From a report by the USCG top five reasons of boating accidents that lead to a death in 2007 are:
1. Alcohol use – 145
2. Operator inattention – 47
3. Operator inexperience – 42
4. Careless/Reckless operation – 33
5. Excessive speed – 31
All of these factors are within the control of a boat operator, so they are likely preventable.
Interestingly enough, a 2007 Boating Statistics report shows the number of accidents/fatalities by Gulf Coast state where alcohol was a contributing factor. These numbers are totals for the years 2003 to 2007 and include both fresh and saltwater.
1. Florida – 195/76
2. Louisiana – 75/25
3. Texas – 69/28
4. Alabama – 53/22
5. Mississippi – 15/4
July was the month with the highest number of accidents in 2007 and second only to June in the number of fatalities. While one can never let down their guard, summertime is certainly the time for heightened safety awareness on the water.
About the Editors: Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm (VA-NC law offices ) edits the Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard, and the Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard injury law blog as a pro bono service to consumers. Lawyers licensed in: VA, NC, SC, WV, DC, KY, who handle car, truck, railroad, and medical negligence cases and more.