Boaters and boat passengers beware: spring and early summer is boat accident time

Finally, beautiful weather is upon us. It lifts the spirit to get out into the fresh air with friends and family on the waterways and lakes.   It’s liberating, after the winter months. Our bodies crave the sunshine. It’s only natural that we get excited when we get our boat off of the dry dock, or out of storage. It’s a platform for fun, for freedom; and in most cases, for consuming alcoholic beverages along the way.

In addition to alcohol people have on board, there is no shortage of bars and restaurants along Shem Creek, and other areas in Charleston, to add to the alcohol consumption.  Popular areas like Morris Island in the harbor, Capers island, Dewees Island, Prices Inlet; these are all boat destination where people park their boats either onshore, or slightly offshore, and enjoy the company of friends and family, and alcoholic beverages.

If you are an owner, be aware that Boating Under the Influence (BWI “Boating While Intoxicated”), is a crime; and if you are BWI at the time of a boat accident that causes another person serious bodily injury or death, you can be sentenced to 20 years in prison.   It is a serious responsibility to serve as Captain of a boat. The Captain of a boat is held responsible for damages arising from even slight negligence of the Captain.

If you are a passenger, know who you are riding with before you embark.   If you are not comfortable with the person or group operating the vessel, simply do not get on the boat. No one wants to be captive for hours with a person or group of people they don’t feel comfortable with.  Know the track record of the Captain. Don’t just jump on a boat with anyone. Anyone can buy a boat, but it doesn’t mean they know how to operate the boat safely; and they may be prone to boating while intoxicated, especially in the spring and early Summer, when people are excited to be getting outside, and ready to party.

If you need to exit the situation, don’t hesitate to get on another boat with a safe operator and catch a ride home. Or if you can get to a dock, catch an Uber home.   But by all means, use common sense and be safe. Do not risk your safety by riding with an intoxicated captain.    The water can be a very unforgiving environment when bad things happen.

While operating at night, be sure to never navigate using only electronic navigation devices.   Be sure you or your captain has an extra person canvasing ahead with a marine spotlight, preferably a 2 million candlepower minimum.   A good spotlight spots the green and red channel markers ahead, and keeps the boat in the channel. Every year, boaters are severely injured and killed, using only their navigation devices to guide them at night while under operation in the dark.

Currents move sandbars around; commercial marine vessels sometimes strike channel markers and knock off the bright green and red markers, leaving large brown poles an unmarked hazard.   When barges run into these channel markers, it can push the pole sideways under the water, a hazard that can sink a boat and injure or kill people on board.

At night, slow down to a very safe, easygoing speed. The lower the speed, the more opportunity you have to avoid hazards that may appear by surprise in the dark.

The McKnight Law Firm can assist you with maritime injury claims in Charleston.   Attorney Jody McKnight is a native of Charleston. He has been operating marine vessels his entire life, and is familiar with the waters in the Charleston area, and the rules, regulations, and standards regarding boating safety. Please be safe; but if you, or a family member suffers an injury while on a boat, please call us for a consultation.   We are glad to assist.