Boating season has officially begun. With Memorial Day weekend marking the unofficial kickoff of that happy time of year when thousands head to lakes, rivers, and reservoirs to relax, boating season also unfortunately means the start of more accidents in and on the water.
In 2011 alone, there were a reported 4,588 boating accidents in the U.S., resulting in more than 3,000 injuries, 750 deaths, and an estimated $52 million in property damage.
In the first two weeks of the Tennessee boating season, there have already been eight reported accidents and three injuries, but the good news is that this year’s boating kickoff weekend was free of boating-related fatalities for the third consecutive year. That is a record that the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA)—the government agency in charge of patrolling the state’s waterways to check for safety and accident preparation—is keen on continuing.
According to the TWRA, the single best action you can take to prevent a fatality while boating is simply to wear a life jacket when out on the water. An estimated 84% of people who drown in boating accidents were not wearing life jackets at the time.
But besides wearing a life jacket, there are a few other boating regulations that you should be aware of before you take your boat out for some summer fun:
- Boating Under the Influence. Just like driving a car, it is illegal to operate a motorboat, sailboat, or any kind of powered vessel while intoxicated by alcohol or drugs. All persons who are operating a boat have given their implied consent to submit to a blood-content test, and refusing to take one can result in a separate fine. Punishment ranges from jail time to $5,000 in fines.
- Young Operators. The age limit for operating a boat in Tennessee is 12 years old if the vessel has more than 8.5 horsepower, unless they are accompanied by an adult who can take immediate control of the wheel. Any resident born after January 1, 1989 must have a TWRA-issued card proving that they successfully completed a TWRA administered boating safety exam.
- Reckless Operation. Violations of reckless operation of a water vessel can result in up to a year in jail, $5,000 in fines, and suspension of a boating license. Reckless boating is considered actions such as: operating a vessel in a swimming area, excessive speeds, overloading a vessel, jumping an immediate wake of another vessel with a personal watercraft, and more.
- Reporting Accidents. Immediately contact the TWRA if you are involved in a boating accident. Every operator involved in a boat crash is required to fill out an accident form. Failure to do so may result in prosecution by the TWRA.
Visit TN.gov to check out all state regulations regarding boating safety.
Enjoy the water, but be sure to stay safe out there. And if you are involved in a boating accident, remember to contact Tennessee personal injury attorneys at Gilreath Law immediately to discuss your legal options.