Steering Clear of Boating Disasters

W. Bradley Parker
Protecting the rights of North Texas personal injury victims since 1985.

Parker Law Firm

Operating a watercraft can be just as, if not more, hazardous than driving a motor vehicle. A boat operator has to be aware of currents, dangerous obstacles that may not be visible under the water, other boaters, people or objects in the water, and inclement weather. There are no roads or lines on the water telling boaters where they can and can’t drive or posted speed limit signs, and summer boating is often accompanied by alcoholic refreshments.

“The most prevalent cause that I see for boating accidents is excessive drinking. Lakes are overwhelmed with a large number of boaters during the Memorial Day weekend, and when people are having too much fun in the sun, they stop paying attention to what they are doing,” Brad says. “There really is no difference between a BUI (Boating Under the Influence) and DUI (Driving Under the Influence). If you refuse to take a breathalyzer, you can still lose your driver’s license.”

Another common factor among boating fatalities is the failure to wear a life jacket. In fact, the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department reports that 85 percent of deaths from boating accidents were from not wearing a floatation device. Being a proficient swimmer does NOT protect you from drowning. Brad says, “Even the best swimmers can get into trouble with sudden immersion in cold water or by being knocked unconscious and drowning if they’re not wearing a life jacket.”

Children under 13 years of age must wear a life vest in Texas, and there must be one for each person on board. “Don’t just have life jackets on the boat, but make sure everybody wears them. When an emergency happens, you shouldn’t be scurrying around and searching in a compartment. By then it’s too late,” Brad says.

Here are a few additional tips to keep you safe on North Texas waters this boating season:

  • Perform a pre-boarding boat safety check
    • Check that you have a full tank of gas, correct engine oil and transmission fluid levels, a fully-charged battery, full fluid levels, electronic gear in good condition and that all other components of your boat working properly and in good condition.
    • After you refuel, open your hatches and run the blower to sniff for fumes. If you smell fumes, don’t start the engine.
    • Make sure you have your operator’s certificate or license and any registration or documentation for the boat onboard and current.
  • In addition to life jackets, have other boat safety equipment onboard. 
  • Check for inclement weather.
  • Practice boat propeller safety.
  • Be courteous to others on the water.
  • Keep a lookout in case someone goes overboard or if someone is skiing or tubing.

Boating Distancing Rule: We’ve all become extremely familiar with social distancing, so obeying the 50-foot rule when boating should be no problem. Maintain a 50-foot distance from other personal watercrafts, vessels, people, shorelines, stationary platforms or other objects unless operating at an idle speed.

Boating Accidents By the Numbers

Wearing a life jacket is the simplest life-saving strategy for recreational boaters. The following figures are from the U.S. Coast Guard’s 2019 Recreational Boating Statistics, the latest record of reported boating accidents in the United States.

  • 79 percent of boating deaths were due to drowning
  • 86 percent of those victims were NOT wearing a life jacket
  • 2/3 of drowning victims were good swimmers
  • 4,168 boating accidents were reported in 2019
  • 613 reported deaths in 2019
  • 2,559 reported injuries in 2019
  • $55 million in property damage
  • 70 percent of deaths occurred on boats where operator had no boating safety instruction
  • 23 percent of deaths were caused with alcohol as leading factor
  • 1 in 3 of all boating injuries occurred in boat operators over the age of 35
  • 2nd is how Texas is ranked in reported boating deaths, following Florida

Have You Been Injured In A Texas Boating Accident?

If you've been injured you need to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our Bedford office directly at 817.440.3888 to schedule your free, no obligation consultation.


At Parker Law Firm, our experienced personal injury lawyers believe people matter. We are committed to our clients, not case numbers, and we believe in the power of the civil justice system. With years spent both representing accident victims and participating in the state legislative process, our founder, Brad Parker, has developed a deep understanding of the law and gained unique experience that helps him get results for his clients.
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