When someone is badly injured or killed in a boating accident, the cause of the incident must be investigated. Many boating injuries and fatalities, however, can be prevented when boaters employ safe boating practices.
Knowing the leading causes of boating accidents in Canada is one step in preventing them. Let’s take a look at the top five causes.
Just like alcohol and cars do not mix, neither does alcohol and boats. Like with cars, alcohol negatively affects judgment and reaction time, leading to serious accidents. In fact, boaters are subject to the same impaired driving charges as motorists.
According to the Marine Liability Act, passengers on boats may consume alcohol only if the boat has sleeping and cooking facilities and a permanent toilet. The boat must also be anchored at the time.
Speeding and Dangerous Maneuvers
Like the stunt driving of cars, speeding or making dangerous maneuvers in a boat can lead to collisions. It may also cause the operator or passengers to fall overboard or sustain other injuries inside the boat.
When boating deaths or injuries result from maneuvers such as running rapids, it is usually because the boaters involved did not have sufficient skill or experience for the activity.
Failure to Have Appropriate Safety Equipment on Board
The Marine Liability Act requires that motor and sailboats have specific safety equipment on board, including but not limited to a fire extinguisher, anchor, flares, magnetic compass, and navigation lights.
In a 2019 high-profile case involving the wife of Canadian celebrity, Kevin O’Leary, and another boat operator from Buffalo, New York, O’Leary’s wife (who was being charged for an incident that resulted in the death of two boaters) testified that the other boat in the accident did not have its navigation lights on. This was also confirmed in the police investigation.
Richard Ruh, the other boat operator, was charged with one count of failing to have his navigation lights on while underway.
Poor Planning or Lack of Caution
Changing weather conditions can dramatically affect the safety of any boat ride. In 1978, a group of 12 boys and a volunteer all died in an accident on Lake Timiskaming. They were attempting to cross the lake when their canoes capsized. Poor planning and inexperience were blamed for the deaths.
In another tragic accident in Georgian Bay, two Grade 7 students died on a field trip when the glass bottom boat they were on sank off Flower Pot Island. While the others in their class could swim to shore, the two 12-year-olds drowned. None of the students were wearing life jackets even though they were in rough water.
Not Wearing a Life Jacket
While not wearing a life jacket may not cause a boating accident, it can have a tremendous impact on the outcome. For example, about 90% of Canadians who have been killed in boating accidents were not wearing (or not properly wearing) a life jacket. Even experienced swimmers can drown if they are injured or experience shock from the cold water.
While Ontario law does not mandate life jackets be worn (only that you have enough life jackets on board in the appropriate sizes for everyone on board), many deaths could be prevented if life jackets are worn.
Contact Hoffman Law today
Anyone who operates a boat has a moral and legal responsibility to do so safely. If you or a loved one has been hurt in a boating accident due to someone else’s recklessness or negligence, you are entitled to compensation for your injuries. Contact Hoffman Law today to learn more.