The state of California is full of lakes, rivers, marinas and the ocean coastline, and boating is a popular pastime. While a great source of fun, boating can also be dangerous if the operators do not follow safety regulations and drive sensibly. As a result, boating accidents can lead to serious injury and even death. To help ensure everyone's safety, it is important that boat operators and their passengers understand the guidelines and regulations associated with being on a boat.
According to the U.S. Coast Guard Office of Auxiliary and Boating Safety, in 2017 there were 4,291 boating accidents across the country, and 658 of them were fatal. California accounted for 350 of these accidents and 7.2% of the deaths, trailing only behind Florida and Texas. The majority of the accidents were due to collisions with recreational vessels, and other common causes were capsizing, flooding, grounding and skier mishaps. The age group for the highest number of injuries was 20-29 year olds.
According to the California Division of Boating and Waterways, the state requires all boat operators who are 20 years or younger to complete a state-approved safety course. The state is phasing in this requirement so that everyone will have to take the course by 2025. Along with making sure the weather conditions are appropriate for being on the water, the boat operator is in charge of making sure:
- The boat is not overloaded
- Weight is evenly spread
- Passengers remain seated
- They fasten the gear properly
Throughout the ride, operators must follow all the rules of the waterways and be alert for other vessels, skiers and swimmers. The operator should also follow speed limits for particular areas and in certain weather conditions. They should also avoid other negligent behavior such as drinking or doing drugs. If passengers are drinking alcohol, they should be aware of the increased risk and wear a lifejacket in the event they fall overboard.