Last year, the number of boating-related deaths in Maine was on par with those in Florida, a state that is more populous, surrounded by more water and where the season isn’t hampered by weather.
Our boating accident lawyers understand that in the last five years, 43 peopleshave been killed in 39 separate boating crashes in Maine. The total number of accidents during that same time frame was 206, meaning that 20 percent of all boating accidents result in death.
Compare that to other high-boating states: In Minnesota, the percentage is 18 percent; In Florida, it’s 9 percent; In New York, it’s 14 percent.
Every day in this country, someone is injured or dies in a boating accident every 2.5 hours. In Maine, the summer season means we’ll see a spike of these occurrences.
The same can be said for pool-related injuries and deaths. The Maine Department of Health and Human Services reports that approximately 30 people in the state die each year of accidental drowning. Nationwide, it’s the No. 1 cause of death for children between the ages of 1 and 4. More than half of all drowning victims are under the age of 5.
With regard to boating accidents, the one good bit of news is that almost all states now have laws that bar operation of a vessel if one is intoxicated or has a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 percent or more. Georgia recently reduced its legal BAC from 0.10 to 0.08 percent. The only other states that remain at the 0.10 BAC legal limit for boaters are Michigan, North Dakota and Wyoming – and the latter two are land-locked.
Last year, the U. . Coast Guard reported that alcohol was a factor in some 17 percent of the more than 650 boating deaths nationally. That was a slight increase from what we saw the year before, when alcohol accounted for 16 percent.
A former longtime Maine Marine Patrol officer, now the director of law enforcement for the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, was quoted by USA Today as saying that law enforcement reaction to those who are boating while drunk has shifted. It used to be, he said, that intoxicated boaters were simply given a warning and told to go home. Now, he says, if a person is over the legal limit, he or she will be arrested.
That’s one piece of the puzzle – but it’s not everything. The NASBLA reports that in addition to alcohol consumption, other leading factors of boating fatalities are:
- Operator inexperience;
- Operator inattention;
- Excessive Speed;
- Improper loading;
All of these scenarios are preventable.
The same can be said of child drowning. While an incredibly tragic situation, it’s almost always preventable. An excellent article recently published by Slate.com discusses the deceptively quiet nature of drowning, and how you can potentially spot it while occurring (it’s not as easy as you might think).
As for prevention, the National Drowning Prevention Alliance recommends the following:
- Always know where your children are. Never leave a child unattended in or near water in a pool, bathtub, lake, canal, ocean or even buckets, aquariums or kiddie pools.
- Always take note of any potential dangers in your environment, particularly if you are visiting a home or other place with a pool, spa or pond.
- Instruct caregivers or babysitters about the potential hazards of a pool and stress the need for constant barriers and supervision.
- If a child does go missing, always check the spa or pool first, as seconds can be crucial.