Now that the weather is getting warmer, many residents of Raleigh, Durham and Eastern North Carolina are thinking about boating and getting out on the water. The active season for recreational boating in North Carolina runs from April through October with the most activity from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Whether you regularly take your family to Falls Lake, Jordan Lake or down to the coast, it is important to keep in mind boating safety while you are out on the water and to remain alert to potential boating accidents.
Boat owners and operators must act responsibly, ensuring that their vessels are safe for summertime boating and that they have the training to take those vessels out onto the water.
If another boat operator’s negligence causes harm to you or your family member, you may be entitled to seek compensation for your medical bills and other expenses. We want to highlight eight tips for safe boating this summer.
1. Never Drink and Boat
While it might seem obvious that drinking while operating a watercraft can be just as dangerous as driving a motor vehicle while intoxicated, it is extremely important to avoid consuming alcohol while you are operating a boat. North Carolina statutes make it illegal to operate any boat with a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher.
According to a checklist from the National Marine Manufacturer’s Association on safe boating, consuming alcohol while you are out on the water may even be more hazardous than drinking before you get behind the wheel of a car. According to that checklist, the probability of being involved in a boating accident doubles when alcohol is involved.
Boating accidents can happen without warning. Help to prevent a dangerous boating accident by leaving your alcoholic beverages on the shore.
2. Be Smart About the Weather
Before you head out onto the lake or open water, always check the forecast to ensure that there are not dangerous weather conditions brewing. According to the National Marine Manufacturer’s Association, storms can appear seemingly out of nowhere, so if you see clouds that are darkening or notice a drop in temperature, you should get back to shore.
Before you head out on your boat, you should always turn to the TV, radio, or internet to see if the weather is safe for being on the water.
3. Use Proper Boating Equipment
Do you know what tools and safety equipment you should have on your boat at all times? According to a checklist from the Department of Natural Resources, always ensure that your vessel is stocked with the following:
- A Coast Guard-approved life jacket for each person aboard the boat;
- Fire extinguisher;
- Operable boat lights;
- Extra batteries;
- Emergency supplies in a floating pouch, including a cellphone, flares, and first-aid materials; and
- Communication and signal equipment, like a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) or an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB). It’s a good idea to put your cell phone in a waterproof container that floats
A lack of preparation by the boat operator can turn a minor accident into an emergency situation.
4. Take a Boating Safety Course
If you were born on or after January 1, 1988, then you must complete a boating education course in order to operate a vessel that is propelled by a motor of 10 HP or more, according to North Carolina General Statutes § 75A-16.2.
As the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission makes clear, this must be a boating course approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA).
5. Know How to Swim
It might seem surprising, but many people who venture out onto the water do not know how to swim. Whether you plan to operate a boat or simply to spend time with friends and family as a passenger on a vessel, it is important to learn how to swim.
You can find swimming classes in and around the Triangle area. Some are offered by organizations like the American Red Cross, while community centers and private organizations also may offer swim lessons.
6. Always Inform Another of Your Float Plan
It is important to have a float plan, regardless of your level of experience as a boater. A float plan, according to the National Marine Manufacturer’s Association, should include the following information:
- Your name and contact information;
- The names and contact information for all passengers on your boat;
- Registration information for your boat, including its make and model;
- Itinerary for your boating trip.
You should provide this information to a family member who is not going on the trip or to an employee at a local marina. In the event that there is an emergency while you are on the water, another party on land will have the relevant information to help keep you and your passengers safe.
7. Follow Navigation Rules
Navigation rules are in place to make boating a safe and fun activity for everyone. Ensure that you pay attention to the following when you are operating a vessel:
- Do not allow passengers to sit in parts of the boat that are not designed as seating;
- Do not stop, start, or turn suddenly;
- Always maintain the slow-no-wake speed posted.
8. Get Your Boat Checked
The U.S. Coast Guard offers a free safety check for boats to ensure that you have all of the safety equipment you will need and that your vessel meets North Carolina and federal regulations.
Contact a Raleigh Boating Accident Lawyer
Common accidents while boating are preventable if you take safety steps. However, you cannot control the actions of other boaters. At Hardison & Cochran, Attorneys at Law we know how devastating a boating accident can be to a family. If you or someone you love has been injured in a boating accident caused by another’s fault, one of our dedicated accident lawyers in Raleigh can assist with your claim. Contact Hardison & Cochran today for more information.