Tennessee Boating Deaths Doubled This Year. What Are Top Safety Tips?

Boating accidents, injuries, and deaths are relatively common in the state of Tennessee – even more than in previous years. In 2017, 16 people died in Tennessee boating accidents. So far in 2018, the death toll is up to 22 people. The number of people who passed away in boating accidents as of Labor Day doubled from the prior year. Keep yourself and your loved ones safe during 2019’s Tennessee boating season with a few top safety tips.

Maintain Your Vessel

Equipment failures and malfunctions due to inadequate boat maintenance commonly cause fatal accidents. As a boat owner, it is your duty to properly care for your vessel. Regular maintenance checks, inspections, and professional repairs are necessary for safe boating. Failure to maintain a boat, leading to a related fatal accident, could result in your liability. Protect yourself from personal injuries and legal trouble by always maintaining your watercraft.

Keep a Constant Lookout

Tennessee boating accident statistics for 2017 show the majority of wrecks (48 out of 105 reportable incidents) were collisions with other vessels. The second-most common cause was collision with a fixed object. Furthermore, improper lookout was the primary cause of 13 boating incidents. Collisions with other vessels, objects, and personal watercraft often stem from a boat operator’s failure to keep adequate lookout. Boaters must constantly scan the waterways ahead for other boaters, swimmers, and objects.

Do Not Boat Distracted

Boating distracted, boating under the influence of alcohol, and boating without adequate skill or knowledge can lead to preventable collisions and deaths. If you are in charge of manning your craft, stay vigilant. Do not do anything that could compromise your ability to focus on the waterway or the task at hand. Pay attention to the waterway, cruise at appropriate speeds, and safely maneuver away from obstacles to prevent fatal collisions.

Like driving a vehicle, texting and boating is also dangerous. Put down your phone when operating a water vessel. Texting or checking emails while boating could lead you to miss an important hazard, such as a boat coming to a stop in front of you or a dock appearing around a corner. Dedicate 100% of your attention to the waterway ahead.

Never Boat While Intoxicated

It is illegal to operate a water vessel while under the influence of alcohol in Tennessee. The maximum blood alcohol content (BAC) limit is the same as on the road: 0.08%. Operating with a BAC at or over 0.08% could result in criminal charges. It could also cause a serious or fatal accident. Boating under the influence makes it difficult for operators to safely control, steer, and stop their vessels. Alcohol and drugs can impair judgment, slow reaction times, and increase the odds for a serious boat accident.

Have Proper Safety Equipment on Board

Every boater in Tennessee must carry required safety equipment on board. This includes throwable flotation devices, wearable personal flotation devices (such as lifejackets), fire extinguishers, and emergency signals. Furthermore, every person on a personal watercraft must always wear a flotation device. Children 12 and under must always wear an approved personal flotation device on a boat’s open deck while not anchored. Obeying the safety rules could save a life in a boat accident.

Keep a Safe Following Distance

If you are on a busy Tennessee waterway, keep a safe distance between your vessel and other watercraft. Do not boat directly behind boats pulling skiers or tubers, in case the individual ends up in the water in front of your boat. Do not travel too closely to swimmers, as propellers and jet propulsion could be dangerous to them. Leave at least 20 feet of distance between skiers/surfers and the back of your boat to protect them from exhaust fumes. Keeping enough space between your boat and other waterway users, as well as traveling at a safe speed, can help prevent deadly collisions.