Boating poses inherent dangers just like operating any other motor vehicle does. According to the U.S. Coast Guard (USGC) 2022 Recreational Boating Statistics report, there were 4,040 total accidents involving these water vessels. Of those incidents, 589 were fatal accidents, whereas 3,451 were non-fatal, although some undoubtedly caused injuries. If you’re curious as to what injuries can boating negligence cause, keep reading. We’ll also go into detail about why these incidents occur.
Types of Injuries Boaters Often Suffer
Some of the most common injuries that boating negligence causes include:
- Amputations and lacerations: Boat propellers, for example, can cause injuries like these to occur, as can a crash into a rigid object like a dock.
- Broken bones: These injuries, which commonly affect boaters’ elbows, ankles, and arms, most often result from slips and falls on wet surfaces, like boat floors. Shoes can provide boaters with traction as they navigate waterlogged areas.
- Spinal cord injuries: Any sudden impact that is consistent with a collision can cause a person to suffer whiplash, a neck injury, or spinal cord injury.
- Electrocution: A boat’s motor and many of its other components run on electricity. These are not only prone to catching on fire, but if they make contact with water, they can electrocute someone on the boat.
- Head injuries: A boater may suffer one of these when having a slip and fall or if they’re intoxicated, for example. This category may include impaling, cuts, contusions (bruising), and more.
- Traumatic brain injuries: These are often referred to as propulsion injuries because individuals suffer these when they’re propelled forward, causing their head to strike a rigid object. This can cause a concussion, brain bleed, or worse. Individuals who fall into the water risk oxygen deprivation, which can leave lasting brain damage, too.
Leading Causes of Boating Accidents
The USCG keeps track of the contributing factors that lead to boating accidents. The top five on the list of boat-related accidents, deaths, and injuries that occurred in 2022 included:
- Operator inattention: This category includes distractions like conversing with others either in-person, by phone or by text, or otherwise not paying attention to operating the water and instead something else. This factor resulted in 602 crashes, which led to 308 injuries and 45 deaths in 2022.
- Operator inexperience: Even if skippers complete the Arkansas-administered boater education course, an overwhelming majority of skippers spend limited time on the water annually (some reports suggest as few as 110 hours). This inexperience reportedly caused 464 accidents, causing 249 injuries and 69 deaths last year.
- Improper lookout: Boaters should scan the water ahead of them for any hazards that may enter their path while operating their water vessel. Boat operators’ failures to do this caused 387 collisions, causing 234 injuries and 22 deaths in 2022.
- Excessive speed: Like any other motorized vehicle, boats can travel at various speeds. The one downside to boaters speeding is that this operation behavior can easily result in a boat occupant becoming ejected from their boat if a collision occurs, resulting in a potential drowning and other adverse outcomes. This factor caused 320 accidents, causing 288 injuries and 35 deaths in 2022.
- Machinery failure: Boat owners must perform regular maintenance on their water vessels or run the risk of engine failure, which is the most common reason for breakdowns. Other factors, such as boat overloading, operating the vessel in rough water, and utilizing an insufficient pump, can all also cause equipment failure. Factors like these resulted in 289 crashes, which resulted in 69 injuries and 13 deaths in 2022.
Another factor that didn’t make it on the top five list above but is often responsible for boating accidents is the drunk operation of boats, which is a criminal offense known as boating while intoxicated per Arkansas law. USCG statistics show this factor was responsible for at least 215 crashes involving water vessels in 2022 in our state. This was a contributing factor to at least 148 injuries and 88 deaths that same year.
Recreational Water Vessels in Which Injury Accidents Occur
Some types of water vessels are more apt to become involved in crashes than others. The top five involved in accidents in 2022 were:
- Open motorboats: 2,531 total crashes, with 1,158 injuries and 292 deaths
- Personal watercraft: 996 collisions, with 549 injuries and 54 fatalities
- Cabin motorboat: 780 crashes, with 163 injuries and 25 deaths
- Pontoon boats: 509 accidents, with 147 injuries and 54 fatalities
- Auxiliary sailboat: 217 crashes, with 23 injuries and 6 deaths
Among other types of recreational water vessels, inflatables, stand-up paddleboards, rowboats, canoes, and houseboats saw the fewest number of injuries. Airboats, auxiliary sailboats, houseboats, inflatables, and rowboats saw the fewest deaths.
Time at Which the Most Serious Boating Accidents Occur
The above-referenced USCG report highlights time frames during which fatal boat crashes occur, which can also be understood as when the most serious boating injuries happen. The top time frames for the most catastrophic injuries on boats in rank order are:
- Between 12 a.m. and 2:30 a.m.: At least 22% of crashes are fatal
- 4:31 a.m. to 6:30 a.m. and 8:31 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.: 16% of boating accidents that occur during each respective time period above is fatal
- 2:31 a.m. to 4:30 a.m. and 8:31 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.: 15% of boating accidents during each of these time frames are fatal
Months When the Most Serious Bus Accidents Occur
Boating accidents are the most common between May and September. USCG data shows that boating accidents in 2022 reached their peak in July at 973, with those incidents resulting in 614 injuries and 108 deaths. The months that saw the lowest boating collisions in 2022 were November through February. December 2022, for example, saw 66 boating accidents, which caused 33 injuries and 15 deaths.
Days of the Week When Boating Injuries and Fatalities Take Place
As you might suspect, Saturdays and Sundays are the absolute worst for recreational water vessel accidents to occur. Mondays and Fridays are next up on the list. At least 1,272 boating accidents occurred on Saturdays in 2022. Of those, 737 injuries and 195 deaths occurred.
When You Might Need an Attorney’s Help After a Boating Accident
If you suffered serious injuries or lost someone close to you in a boating accident that you believe is attributable to negligence, Arkansas law allows you to sue the liable party for the harm you suffered. Making sense of liability statutes, determining the causes of accidents, and attributing those apparent contributing factors to injuries isn’t easy, but handling cases involving injuries stemming from boating negligence is what our lawyers at McMath Woods P.A. have extensive experience doing. Reach out to us to schedule a free consultation with a Little Rock personal injury attorney who can provide sound advice for handling your case.