Connecticut boating accidents, and how to avoid them

There are dozens of boating accidents in our state each year.

The United States Coast Guard reports that there were 47 boat accidents in Connecticut last year, with three deaths. Tragically, this year, the number of fatal boat accidents has already doubled from last year, claiming six lives as of July 13. Even one death in a preventable boat or personal watercraft accident is too many.

Connecticut requires proper certification for operators of boats and personal watercraft (like Jet Skis, Sea-Doos and WaveRunners). To receive this certification, operators must demonstrate basic knowledge of water safety and boat operation skills, and pass a test. Connecticut also requires motor-powered and watercraft to be registered. Uncertified operators and unregistered watercraft put the public at risk.

The Top-Five Causes

Many injury-causing boat accidents result not because of weather conditions or equipment failures, but because of human error and negligent or reckless operation. The Coast Guard reports that many boat accidents are the result of only a handful of causes. These include:

  • Operator inattention: not monitoring surroundings, weather conditions, tides and currents, other boating traffic, swimmers or water-skiers, or failing to assign a passenger to monitor water skiers; failure to look out for other boaters, human-powered watercraft like kayaks and paddleboards, swimmers, sandbars, rocks or hazards
  • Operator inexperience: without adequate experience, boat operators may not be able to successfully navigate choppy water, no-wake zones, crowded channels or anchorages or handle foul weather
  • Excessive speed: speeding through no-wake zones or in crowded or narrow channels or anchorages or racing another boat
  • Machinery failure: defective parts, inadequate maintenance, dirty or clogged fuel filters, frayed ropes or other rigging, hull breaches, fiberglass cracks or perforations, or engine failure
  • Insufficient or improper personal safety equipment, missing personal flotation devices (lifejackets); old, worn or untested safety equipment
  • Reckless conduct: drunken boating, racing, operating at night without proper lights and other equipment, boating when bad weather is forecast, ignoring small craft warnings, failing to yield to preferred craft (including human-powered craft)

Unsafe boating can lead to collisions with other boats, personal watercraft, human-powered watercraft or swimmers; swamping; capsizing; running aground on sandbars or rocks; breakdown at sea; or incidents involving bad weather or squalls.

Never drink and boat! Many boat accidents involve alcohol intoxication. Responsible boat operators should never get behind the wheel after drinking, and have a sober operator at all times. Boat passengers should also refrain from excessive alcohol use, because their reaction times could be affected should they end up overboard without a life jacket.

Boat accident injuries can be very serious, and can include fractures, lacerations from propellers or contact with running gear, burns, carbon monoxide poisoning, ruptured eardrums or other ear/eye injury, and drowning. If you or someone you love has been injured because of the negligent operation of a boater, passenger, manufacturer or supplier, you have legal rights. Speak with an experienced personal injury attorney at Jacobs & Dow to learn more about your legal options before you agree to any settlement or insurance company offer. Call their New Haven law offices at 203-772-3100 for a free initial consultation or contact them online.