Posted on behalf of The Nye Law Group on May 23, 2017 in Personal Injury
Many Americans will spend a lot of time boating this summer, which is why President Donald Trump has designated this week as National Safe Boating Week.
The goal of this week is for the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) and other organizations at the federal, state and local level to promote practical strategies for keeping yourself and your friends and family members safe when you go out on the water. The USCG and other organizations are also encouraging boaters to take boater education courses.
Using this week to learn about safe boating can help prevent a boating accident in Savannah that could result in severe injuries and deaths. Georgia had the sixth-highest number of boating deaths in the nation in 2015 with 22, according to the USCG's 2015 Recreational Boating Safety Statistics.
Boaters play a significant role in preventing accidents that result in deaths and injuries, as three of the top five contributing factors in boating accidents in Georgia and across the nation could be categorized as boater errors, including:
There are several things you can do to reduce the risk of an accident and keep yourself safe if a crash or other dangerous situation occurs, according to the North American Safe Boating Campaign (NSBC):
This applies no matter what activity you are engaging in out on the water, including:
When an accident occurs, there is rarely time to grab a life jacket and put it on properly, particularly when the life jacket is stowed away. Not wearing a life jacket significantly increases your risk of drowning, as 85 percent of people who drowned in boating accidents were not wearing life jackets, according to USCG statistics.
Under Georgia's Boat Safety Act, all boats are required to have one personal flotation device (PFD) for each person on board. There are four types of PFDs that are acceptable under the law, Type I, Type II, Type III and Type V. However, Type V PFDs are only acceptable if they are worn and securely fastened.
Official Code of Georgia (O.C.G.A.) § 52-7-8(d)(2) states that the PFDs on your vessel must be:
Any vessels more than 16 feet in length, excluding canoes and kayaks, are also required to have a Type IV PFD, which is a throwable life preserver.
However, the following vessels are exempt from the above requirements:
It only takes a second for a child to fall off a boat and sink under water. You should stay close to children at all times to ensure their safety.
Georgia law requires all children under the age of 13 to wear a USCG-approved PFD while on board a moving vessel.
Children under the age of 12 are not permitted to operate a vessel that is 16 feet or longer. However, children are legally permitted to operate a vessel less than 16 feet in length that does not have a motor.
These courses will teach you all the Georgia boating laws you need to know as well as boating best practices. Knowing how to react in certain situations on the water can make you a more confident, safer boater.
If you were born on or after January 1, 1998, you cannot operate a motorized vessel in Georgia unless you have completed a boating education course approved by Georgia's Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
The only people who are exempt from this law are those who are:
The BoatUS Foundation offers the only free online boating safety course approved by DNR. You can also pay $29.50 to take a court from Boat Ed. A third option is to pay $29.95 to take a course from Boaterexam.com.
You can prepare for your course by reading The Handbook! Of Georgia Boating Laws and Responsibilities, created by Boat Ed.
Before launching, contact the local Coast Guard branch or U.S. Power Squadrons to schedule a free vessel safety check.
In addition to PFDs, Georgia law states that all vessels must have the following equipment:
Failing to display necessary lights is one of the leading causes of fatal boating accidents in the state.
According to state law, any motorized vessel less than 26 feet in length that is being operated in the dark or during hours of low visibility is required to have one 20-point, green and red light on the bow that is visible for at least one mile along with either of the following:
Motorized vessels longer than 26 feet must display one of three combinations of lights during darkness or periods of low visibility.
One combination includes:
The second combination is:
The third combination is:
These allow boaters to signal for help if there is an emergency. Examples of USCG-approved visual distress signals (VSDs) include:
If you are in a vessel on federally-controlled waters it must be equipped with the following USCG-approved VSDs:
The only exceptions to VSD requirements during the day are for:
These include foghorns, bells and whistles and are highly recommended even when not required by law.
You are required to carry the following sound-producing devices in the following situations:
Every vessel that is mechanically propelled is required to carry one or more fire extinguishers depending on the type of vessel:
It is also a good idea to equip your boat with communication devices to communicate your position in an emergency, potentially saving lives. Communication devices include:
Alcohol was a factor in 17 percent of boating deaths in 2015. Drinking and boating impairs judgment and slows reaction time, increasing the chances of an accident.
Not only is drinking and boating extremely dangerous, it is also illegal. For those under 21, the legal limit for alcohol is a blood alcohol concentration of 0.02 percent or higher. For anyone over 21, the legal limit is 0.08, just like it is for drunk driving.
Drinking and boating carries the following penalties:
If you are stopped by law enforcement while out on the water and you refuse alcohol or drug testing, you will lose the privilege of operating a boat or personal watercraft for up to one year.
This means avoiding reckless behaviors such as:
Have you been injured or lost a loved one in a boating accident?
Many of these accidents are caused by the negligence of other boaters. There are also some situations where a defective part on the boat caused injuries.
In either case, a Savannah-based personal injury lawyer at our firm may be able to help you recover fair compensation for the damages you have suffered.
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