Legal Guide

Top 5 Causes of Boating Accidents

Before you get out on the water this summer, prepare yourself to keep you and your family safe by reading up on five of the biggest causes of boating accidents. Boat collisions can be hazardous and cause tremendous amounts of expensive damage as well.

Operating While Intoxicated

Alcohol use causes more deaths in boating accidents than any other known factor, according to reports from the U.S. Coast Guard. Not only is it unsafe, but it’s also illegal to operate a boat while intoxicated. It reduces your reaction time and makes you more impulsive, and there’s a lot that can go wrong when you’re driving a boat, especially in areas crowded with other boats.

If you’re going to take some beers with you when you go out boating on the lake with friends, make sure you have a designated person to stay sober who has the experience necessary to steer the boat back home safely. Don’t put the people around you in danger just for the sake of a good time.


Only a few states in the country require you to have an actual boating license, but most states require most boat operators to go through an approved safety course before they can drive a boat on their own. More training is always valuable though, as many accidents on the water are caused by drivers who don’t have a lot of experience steering their boat.

“Taking a course online only prepares you so much for navigating between other ships and safely docking with your boat,” says Jason Chalik, founding attorney of Chalik Law. “It takes a lot of practice to be able to operate your vehicle responsibly.” A lot of casual boat operators also might not see it as much of a big deal if they pass the wheel occasionally to other passengers or children with less experience. The driver of a boat needs to know what they’re doing to be able to keep their passengers safe.

Reckless Driving

Even experienced drivers cause a lot of accidents by being reckless or aggressive while operating their vessel. The U.S. Coast Guard lists inattention, excessive speed and “improper lookout” as significant factors that contribute to boat accidents. If you’re going to operate a boat, you need to focus on steering and staying aware of the other boats and objects around you.

Speeding or joyriding in a boat is especially dangerous and irresponsible. Thrill-seekers should stick to jet skis and water skis instead of putting other passengers and boat operators in danger by excessively speeding.

Equipment Failure

Just like with cars, countless things can go wrong and cause an accident with a boat. If your boat is not up-to-date on its maintenance, you could have problems while you’re out on the lake. Take the boat in to see a mechanic at least at the start of the season, and watch carefully for any changes so you can catch other problems before they start.

A big part of boating safety is making sure your boat is prepared for the inevitable emergencies, too. Get a free safety inspection at the start of the summer to make sure you have the tools you need to respond efficiently when things go wrong on the water.

Weather and Water Conditions

Always check the forecast before you get in your boat. Another common contributing factor to boat accidents is the weather. Whether it’s a small storm or a severe natural disaster, your boat is at the whim of the environment. Even an experienced boat operator is going to be challenged to get home safely in the middle of a storm, and someone who’s just starting is going to face even more significant challenges when the waves start to get bigger, or the wind picks up. Think ahead and do your best to be prepared for whatever may come your way.

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