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Boating Safety: Prevention Of Childhood Injuries While Boating, Tubing & Swimming

jidsboating.jpgBoating, tubing, and other water sports and activities can provide fun and enjoyment for families when the weather is warm.   

However, these pleasurable activities can also be dangerous for young children, resulting in injury or even death.   

Statistics from the U.S. Coast Guard, injuries and property damages related to boating accidents can not be ignored: 

  • In 2009, there were 4,370 boating accidents causing 3,358 injuries and 736 deaths and $36 million in damages to property.
  • 86% of boating accident deaths involved boat operator did not have any boat safety instruction or course.
  • Nearly 75% of all boating fatalities were caused by drowning, and 84% were not wearing a life jacket.
  • Children under 13 years old accounted for 18 boating deaths in 2009.  Half of the children who died in 2009 died by drowning, and only 44% were wearing life jackets even though they are required to wear them.  Compared to 2008, the number of accidents decreased 1.23%, deaths increased 3.81%, and injuries increased 0.81%.   

boating injury stats

Boating Laws In Illinois

The Illinois Boat Registration and Safety Act(625 ILCS 45) is in place to regulate boaters and boats in order to improve boating safety and prevent accidents.  Under this law, no child under 10-years-old may operate a motorboat, and there are strict requirements in place for boat operators under 18 years old, including supervision by a parent or guardian and required certificates of boating safety

The Act also specifies that you may not operate a watercraft under the influence of alcohol or drugs in a way that makes you incapable of safely operating the watercraft (no unlawful drugs and BAC (blood alcohol concentration) lower than .08%). 

Unintentional drowning is a major risk for children, especially young children ages 1 to 4 years old.  Drowning rates have been slowly declining, but drowning still accounts for the second highest cause of fatal unintentional injuries for children 1 to 14 years old.  Ways to reduce the risk of accidental drowning include:  

  • Fence in and lock pools (barriers for safety) 

  • Install alarms on doors, so you know when a child leaves the house, and install an underwater pool alarm 

  • Supervise children at all times 

  • Teach children to swim 

  • Teach children safety rules 

  • Do not use toys or noodles as flotation devices (or as a substitute for supervision) 

  • Use the buddy system 

  • Always wear life vests when boating 

  • Swim only in designated areas 

  • Be a responsible supervisor and do not drink alcohol 

  • Be aware of children with seizure conditions 

Education and supervision are important tools in keeping your children safe.  Boating and water safety education is important for both you and your child.  As a parent, you should learn water safety, proper boating instruction, CPR, check water conditions and forecasts before swimming, and avoid alcohol.   

You should teach your children about water safety.  Children should learn to swim, use the buddy system, wear safety gear such as life preservers, and engage in safe practices such as never running near pools.  Proper supervision and safety precautions such as fences around pools and wearing life preservers on boats can help prevent dangerous water accidents. In an effort to prevent dangerous water accidents, Illinois launched a water safety campaign called “Get water wise . . .  Supervise!” 

A Pattern Of Child-Related Boating Tragedies

In May 2010, a ten-year-old girl suffered head injuries in a Florida tubing accident.  She was riding a tube with a 13-year-old girl when the driver, a 16-year-old, ran into a parked boat. 

Then, in July 2010, one child was injured and two seriously injured in a tubing accident in Mecosta, Michigan.  Four children in two tubes were being pulled behind a boat when the driver took a sharp turn and the tubes crashed into a dock. 

Yet another tubing accident occurred in North Carolina in August 2010.  A 21-year-old boy was killed when he got tangled in a tow rope, which fractured his spine and crushed wind pipe. 

Then, in a September 2010 Texas boating crash, twelve people were injured, including a 10-year-old boy who required head surgery.  Thankfully, all people involved in the crash were wearing life jackets.  Texas does not require training classes, but boat companies must go over rules with passengers.   

In order to enjoy the fun that boating and water activities have to offer and avoid dangerous accidents, it is important to observe any regulations or rules in place to protect you and your family, no matter how unnecessary you think they may be

Proper education and supervision can go a long way in preventing injuries or unintentional drowning.  At the beginning of each summer, it is important to re-review safety rules and procedures with your family to instill good habits. 

Potential Legal Recourse For Boating Injuries Involving Children

As with all types of injuries, it is foolish to assume that any type of monetary damages will be able to completely compensate the individual or family involved.  Nonetheless, the severity of many injuries sustained in boating accidents, may entitle the injured party to recovery of substantial economic and non-economic losses sustained.  As with all of our cases, we welcome the opportunity to discuss your situation with you without obligation or charge. (888) 424-5757

Thanks to Heather Keil, J.D. for her assistance with this Child Injury Law Blog entry

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