While you may not need a license to operate a boat, boating involves many of the same risks and responsibilities as getting behind the wheel on the road. Boat operators who cause accidents can be held liable for the consequences of their negligence, and injured boaters deserve to be fully and fairly compensated for their injury-related losses. As you prepare to go boating this summer, here are five key safe boating practices to keep in mind.

1. Have a Plan

Whenever you go boating, it is always a good idea to have a plan. Whether you are going upriver or out into the open water, taking the time to do some basic preparation can go a long way. This includes the following.

  • Making sure you know your route and whether you will be boating in any shipping channels or other high-traffic areas
  • Checking the weather and bringing the necessary provisions
  • Letting someone (who is not going with you) know your plans and when you expect to return
  • Bringing communication devices (cell phones don’t work everywhere on the water) and emergency equipment
  • Checking the tides and currents to make sure that you will be able to make your way back to the dock

In addition to making a plan, it is a good idea to make sure that your boat is in safe operating condition as well. Check your engine controls, bilge pump, battery, and hull before you leave the dock. And, of course, make sure you have enough gas in the tank to get you to your destination.

2. Do Not Boat While Distracted

Distractions are a common cause of boating accidents. With the noise of an outboard engine (or multiple outboard engines), it is very possible to suddenly and unexpectedly encounter another vessel. If you are distracted, you also will not be able to keep a close watch on your depth finder, which could lead you into unexpectedly shallow water or even running aground on a sandbar. When you are in the captain’s chair, you are responsible for your boat’s safe operation. Texting, taking selfies, and other distractions can all take your attention away from the task at hand.

3. Do Not Boat under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs

Boating under the influence is a common cause of single-vessel and multiple-vessel accidents as well. Similar to driving, your ability to safely operate a boat decreases dramatically when you are intoxicated. When you are boating, you need to have full control of your faculties in order to maintain full control of your boat, and consuming alcohol to excess will quickly impair your boating ability. If you plan on drinking while you are out on the water, make sure you bring someone with you who will stay sober and who knows how to safely return your boat to shore.

4. Know the Signs of Unsafe and Inexperienced Boating

It is now mandatory in the state of New Jersey to take an approved boater’s safety course in order to operate a motorized vehicle. However, it is important to remember that there are others on the water who may not have taken a safety course or might be inexperienced.

Encountering an unsafe or inexperienced boater can quickly ruin your day out on the water. Operating a boat is very different from operating a car, truck, or SUV. Boat operators need to understand how tides, currents, wakes, and other factors all impact their boat’s movement on the water. Boat operators also need to observe the rules of navigation and the laws that apply where they are boating, and they need to know how to avoid putting other boaters in harm’s way. Some potential warning signs that a boater may be distracted, drunk, or inexperienced include the following.

  • Failing to maintain control in waves or when faced with a large wake
  • Failing to maintain a straight course in open water
  • Passing too close to other boats
  • Speeding excessively or failing to maintain a consistent speed
  • Taking unnecessary risks on the water

5. Always Boat Within Your Limits

Always, always boat within your limits. Whether you are going on a solo fishing trip or cruising with friends and family, always make sure that you are confident in your ability to return safely to shore. Avoid taking unnecessary risks; when in doubt, slow down; and, if you get into trouble, don’t be afraid to seek help. On the water, doing something when you are not certain of the outcome can have severe consequences, and there is a right time and place (such as a safe boating course) for trying out new boating skills.  Another very important note, is a good idea to have a towing membership with a reputable organization such as Sea Tow or Boat U.S. As every experienced boater knows, there is nothing worse than getting stuck on the water, and having a reliable source that you can call on for help 24/7 is critical.

Speak with a New Jersey Boat Accident Lawyer for Free

Our attorneys represent individuals and families who have suffered severe injuries and lost loved ones in New Jersey boating accidents. While we hope this never happens to you or anyone you love, the personal injury attorneys at Petro Cohen Petro Matarazzo are here when you need them.

With over 100 years of combined legal experience, firm attorneys Barry Cohen, Susan Petro, Rich Gaeckle, and Mike Veneziani will handle your personal injury case, fighting for full and fair compensation in every case they handle.  They have successfully handled thousands of personal injury cases for clients throughout Southern New Jersey. Additionally, Petro Cohen law firm was named to the prestigious U.S. News & World Report Best Law Firms in America® list in New Jersey for Personal Injury in 2017.

For your convenience, we have offices in Northfield, Cape May Court House, Cherry Hill, and Northfield, NJ, and offer free consultations. If you would like to speak with an attorney about your legal rights, you can call 888-675-7607 or contact us online for your free consultation.