National Safe Boating Week Begins May 18

Boat accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm remind the public that this week, May 18-24, 2013, is recognized as National Safe Boating Week. This week the U.S. Coast Guard initiates the “Wear It!” campaign, to spread the message of responsible and safe boating.

Wearing life jackets is mandated by law in all 50 states, no matter what type of body of water you are on. The U.S. Coast Guard, along with partner organizations, is currently working together to create a larger network and a more consistent campaign message throughout the country. They hope that these collaborative efforts will both increase awareness about the importance of life jackets and ultimately lead to a decrease in waterway fatalities.

In 2012, more than 70% of all fatal boating accident victims died from drowning. Of these, about 85% were not wearing a life jacket. A boating incident can happen in the blink of an eye, and even the strongest swimmers and athletes can be rendered unconscious, injured, and exhausted in the water. The Coast Guard affirms that a VHF-FM radio is the best method of communication while on the water, and that although cell phones are a good backup, they should not be solely relied on as they can be unreliable.

The Coast Guard outlines several other useful tips on their website, such as always checking local weather prior to departing and having nautical charts of the area you are boating in. It also recommends boaters obtain a free, no-fault vessel safety check from the Coast Guard Auxiliary, which is a courtesy service that verifies the presence and condition of safety equipment required by federal and state law.

It is worth reminding that boating under the influence is just as dangerous as driving an automobile while impaired. It is illegal in all 50 states to operate a boat while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Penalties for such an act may include hefty fines, license suspension or revocation, and jail time. Indeed, alcohol is the leading contributing factor in all fatal boating crashes.

One such accident recently took place in Cleora, Oklahoma on Duck Creek. Two 21-year-old University of Arkansas students, Rachel Swetnam and Trey Varner, were killed when their Cobalt speed boat crashed into a docked, empty houseboat. In recent years, Duck Creek has been built up enormously to include two restaurants and numerous boat slips just on the arm of the lake the crash occurred.

Neighborhood associations recently petitioned that the area was overcrowded and that the boat slips stuck out too far, making it dangerous for boaters and jetskiers. One person was killed in the summer of 2012 while driving a boat, too fast, into a breakwater barrier.

The crash happened around 5:30 p.m. near Arrowhead Yacht Club on Duck Creek. Investigators said thatalcohol and speed of the boat were both major contributing factors in the crash; so far, they have not found anything mechanically wrong with the boat. Eight people were on the ski boat at the time of the accident – Swetnam and Varner were the only two in the front of the boat, and neither was driving it. One passenger jumped overboard in the seconds before impact and was not injured. Two were taken to a local hospital, and three others refused treatment at the scene.

Local law enforcements state that this crash should serve as a warning of the importance of using caution while on the water. Operating a boat is no different than operating a motor vehicle. Authorities remind mariners throughout the country to boat safely and smartly throughout this Memorial Day weekend, and the rest of the summer as well, to prevent future tragedies.

Boat accident lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm highlight these stories to remind the public of the very real risks associated with boating and jet skiing. If you or a loved one was seriously injured in a boating accident due to the negligence of another, you have important legal rights. Through a personal injury lawsuit you may be entitled to significant compensation for any medical bills, lost wages, and emotional distress.

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