Shelly Dreyer shares boat safety best practices.
My family and I are avid boaters. Our quality family time in the summer is on the water. Every time I hear about a death or injury on the water, my heart breaks because I know that someone’s family outing has turned into a tragedy. As a lifelong boater and boating accident attorney, I know that if not done responsibly, boating can be dangerous. This 2018 summer season has been especially dangerous on Missouri waterways with over 25 deaths in just the first three weeks of July, including the most recent tragedy involving a duck boat at Table Rock Lake, in Branson, Missouri.
So many of the accidents that occur on the water are preventable. Even experienced boat captains can have errors in judgment, causing serious injuries or death. If you are out on the water, there are things that you can do to protect yourself from a negligent boater, even as a passenger.
First, always have a sober captain. The lake is a fun and relaxed atmosphere but just as on the roadway, an intoxicated driver does not have the reaction time and judgment that is necessary to safely operate a boat.
Second, don’t be afraid to speak up if you do not feel comfortable with something the boat captain is doing. Is the boat captain driving too fast? Is the boat captain ignoring storm warnings? If something doesn’t feel safe, do not ignore your instinct.
Third, make sure there are enough life jackets on the boat and they are easily accessible. Missouri law requires every boat have a life jacket (that fits) for each person aboard. If something does happen on the water, you want to be able to quickly get to a life jacket. Many of the deaths that occur on the water are due to drowning.
Lastly, has the captain been properly trained and taken a boater safety course or taken the boater safety test? In Missouri, a person born after January 1, 1984 must have taken a boater safety test in order to operate a boat or personal watercraft (PWC); however, it is recommended that any person who operates a boat or personal watercraft (PWC) take a boater safety course and/or test.
We are fortunate in Missouri to have so many beautiful lakes and rivers that can provide wonderful family memories. Please use caution and have a safe rest of the boating season.