Thousands of boats will be on the water at Shasta Lake and Whiskeytown Lake over Memorial Day weekend. Shasta Lake will be teeming with college students who arrive each Memorial Day, and Whiskeytown Lake will be open for the first time over a holiday since the Carr Fire. The boating accident attorneys at Reiner, Slaughter & Frankel, LLP, encourage everyone to practice safe boating every time they go on the water. According to U.S. Coast Guard statistics, 350 boating accidents occurred in California in 2017, killing 50 people and injuring 249. Following safe boating practices should prevent you from being one of these tragic statistics.    

Boating Accident Attorney Safety Tip #1: Don’t Mix Alcohol and Boating

Alcohol is the leading cause of 19% of boating accident deaths. Boating under the influence (BUI) is illegal in California. The legal limit for a water vessel operator’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is .08%. Vessel operators with BAC lower than .08% can be considered BUI if evidence shows they are intoxicated. If anyone is injured in a boating accident and the operator is found to be BUI, felony criminal charges may apply. 

Passengers, as well as vessel operators, should avoid or minimize alcohol consumption. Boats are constantly in motion and if passengers’ balance, coordination, or judgment are impaired, they are more likely to fall overboard. Once in the water, someone who is drunk is more susceptible to hypothermia, and it can set in more quickly than in someone who is sober. Hypothermia is common even in water temperatures between 70-80 degrees, so hot sun and a warm lake does not prevent hypothermia.

Boating Accident Attorney Safety Tip #2: Always Wear a Life Jacket

The evidence is clear: life jackets, also called personal floatation devices (PFD), save lives. In 2017, drowning caused 76% of boating deaths, and 84.5% of the drowning victims were not wearing life jackets.

California law requires every person on a boat to have a PFD. Rules vary by size and type of boat, but at a minimum, vessels must have a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket readily accessible for every person. All children younger than 13 must wear a PFD while on board. The California Department of Boating and Waterways website provides details about PFD requirements and exceptions. 

Boating Accident Attorney Safety Tip #3: Operate Your Vessel Safely and with Skill

By 2025, all operators of motorized water vessels must possess a California Boater Card, which certifies that the holder has successfully passed a National Association of State Boating Law Administrators and state-approved boater safety education exam. In the 2019 boating season, all vessel operators younger than age 26 must have a card. The requirement is being phased in by age brackets over seven years.

Even if the law doesn’t require a vessel operator to have completed a safety course, get the training because it prevents accidents and death — 81% of boating fatalities occur on boats where the operator has not received boating safety instruction.

In addition to having the training and ability to drive the boat safely, vessel operators must pay attention to all factors that affect the safety and well-being of people on board:

  • Weather
  • Boating navigational and traffic rules
  • Speed
  • Safety equipment, including fire extinguisher, carbon monoxide detector, first aid kit
  • Vessel safety inspection
  • Filing official float plans or sharing unofficial boating plans

Our beautiful Northern California lakes are one of the reasons so many of us live in and around Redding. Following a few boating safety tips will ensure that you continue to enjoy the lakes for many years without needing the assistance of a boating accident attorney.