If you thought Connecticut motor vehicle accidents were the only rising tragedies since the pandemic, think again. Fatal boating accidents in Connecticut have been equally on the rise in the last two years. In 2021, the Connecticut Coast guard reported 43 boating accidents, seven of which were fatal. More boating accidents were recorded the year prior– 54 in total–but the fatality rate was lower, with only three deadly incidents.
Boating is more than just a hobby for Connecticut residents, it is a lifestyle. According to the Department of Motor Vehicles (D.M.V.), there are approximately 86,816 registered vessels in Connecticut. This number only accounts for boats with motors, sailboats, and vessels 19.5 feet or longer in length. There are tens of thousands of kayaks, canoes, paddle boats, and other rowing vessels that could also be out perusing the waters on any given day.
With so many boats traveling along Connecticut waterways and coastlines, boat operators must stay alert and use precautions. Boating accidents can happen quickly and result in catastrophic injuries and fatalities. Before you venture out this season, here are the facts you need to know about boating accidents and how you can keep yourself and your loved ones safe from preventable harm.
Pandemic-Related Rise in Boating
Similar to how people were trying to escape their homes during the pandemic by taking to the roads, Connecticut residents were eager to escape onto the water.
The CT Post reported that Connecticut boat registrations nearly doubled in 2020, despite a 14-year consecutive drop in registrations prior. By the end of the year, 10,962 newly registered vessels were filling up almost every dock along the coast. When there’s an increase in boats sharing the water, especially a rapid increase as seen in 2020, the risk of accidents also rises.
Boating Accident Statistics in Connecticut
Sadly, most fatal boating accidents are preventable, and most involve the absence of one life-saving piece of equipment: lifejackets. When looking at the seven Connecticut boating fatalities occurring in 2021, records show that five of the victims were not wearing life jackets at the time of the accident; the sixth victim reportedly wore a life jacket that did not fit properly and slipped at the time of the accident.
Even when wearing a life jacket, the size and speed of motorboats can lead to life-threatening injuries when collisions occur on the water. The seventh boating fatality in 2021 involved a boater wearing a lifejacket but suffered a blunt force trauma in an accident.
Other factors that play a role in causing severe and fatal boating accidents include:
- Distracted driving (#1 cause of most boating accidents)
- Intoxicated driving
- Capsizing accidents
- Recklessness on rough waters
- Operating too close to other vessels
- Operating an unfamiliar vessel
- Boating in the dark or inclement weather
Boating Safety Tips
Boating accidents can happen to anyone, veteran and amateur boaters alike. Before stepping foot on a boat this season, taking every precaution to protect you and your occupants from harm is crucial.
During National Safe Boating Week, News 12 Connecticut released a list of the top boating safety tips all water lovers should follow this season to reduce preventable accidents. These tips included:
- Wear a Life Jacket: No matter what type of boat you are on or how good you are at swimming, always wear a properly fitting life jacket.
- Stay Sober: Never drink while driving a boat. Just as you should never drink and drive a car, boating while intoxicated can equally result in severe and fatal accidents.
- Utilize Boating Safety Courses: Learn all the tips and tricks for operating your boat safely by taking a boating safety course. Find instructors and classes near you through the CT.gov Portal.
- Know the Laws: If you are boating on Connecticut waters, you must know and follow all state laws to avoid violations that can cause serious harm to others.
- Don’t Overcrowd Your Boat: Too many people on a boat can lead it to take on water or become unstable and capsize. Know the capacity limit of your boat before you invite a crowd.
- Prepare Your Boat: Before you take your boat on the water, ensure it is in good working condition. You can schedule a boating safety check with your local Coast Guard here.
- Wear Proper Gear: Bringing an extra set of dry and warm clothes can prevent conditions such as hypothermia when temperatures drop. Rain Jackets and waterproof gear can also be helpful to keep you warm if inclement weather hits.
- Stay In Touch: Never go out on the water without a working radio or cell phone that can stay in touch with others on the shore or alert someone when an emergency occurs.
- Only Boat in Good Weather: Inclement weather can be detrimental for boaters. Check the weather forecast before you hit the water, especially when going out on the ocean or a large lake.
- File a Float Plan: Filling out a float plan before your trip, especially for longer boat trips, is a great way to let others know where you plan to be in the case of an emergency. Float plans should always be given to someone you trust. You can find all the information your float plan should include at boatingexam.com.
- Abide by Navigation Rules: Operating your boat at safe speeds, crossing safely, and navigating your boat safely in emergencies are essential skills for preventing accidents. Follow all navigation rules on the water so others can predict your actions and reduce confusion.
Beware of CO Poisoning: Sitting too close to the motor or exhaust can result in Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning. Ensure your engine is well maintained to reduce leaks and blocks, and park running boats 20 feet from beaches or docks.
Jacobs & Wallace Boating Accident Attorneys
Boating accidents are 100% preventable when safety practices are implemented. If you or someone you love is injured in an accident, you need an experienced law firm to represent you. Jacobs & Wallace, PLLC, has decades of experience fighting for the rights of Connecticut’s injured victims. Please contact us today for a FREE case evaluation: 203-332-7700.