6 Most Common Causes of Boat Accidents

What causes boat accidents

Boating accidents almost never involve an actual crash, but they can be much more devastating to the unprepared mariner. Boating safety should always lurk in the forefront of your mind when you're headed out for a day on the water. What are the most common causes of boating accidents? How can they be prevented? That's what we're here to find out! 

Wear Your Safety Gear

First is absolutely the most important: Always wear your life jacket. If it makes you feel silly, that's fine. Have a laugh, but you need to keep it on. Much better to look silly and be alive than the alternative. Almost all of drowning fatalities are due to people simply not wearing their life jacket.

All it takes is a quick slip and you could end up overboard. When you're in water that's 50 degrees Fahrenheit you have around 10-20 seconds before your muscles stop responding, and if you aren't wearing your safety gear that is a very small window of life or death.

This is an unbreakable non-negotiable rule on my boat. I will turn around and spend 2 hours just to drop you off at the dock. Doesn't matter to me if I'm called a spoilsport once the trip is over. I'm not having any blood on my hands should things go sideways.

common causes of boating accidents life jackets

Be Wary at Night

A good chunk of boating accidents are caused by people that aren't respecting the conditions around them. Slow down and don't go any faster than you need to, especially at night. Tooling around at top speed and feeling the wind through your hair is just a much better idea when your visibility isn't impaired.

Boating safety basics insist that you keep lights on at night, but in cases of electricity trouble or mechanical failure those lights can fail. You certainly don't want to hit another boat when you're flying across the water blind.

Mechanical & Electrical Failures

One of the scariest things that can happen on a boat is losing power. Always keep an eye on your gauges, and if you've got a flooded cell battery ensure that you're checking the levels regularly.

It can be especially terrifying to be at night since people like the ones mentioned in the point above definitely do exist. Stranded and invisible is beyond dangerous. This is why it's always important to carry an emergency boating flashlight or even a few flares.

common causes of boating accidents flashlight night

Gasoline to Go

It seems silly to run out of gas, but it certainly does happen. There are times that you might be navigating further than expected to avoid a storm, others where you might simply lose your bearings a bit, others still where you're just enjoying yourself and lose track of time.

When running low on gas happens in calm water close to shore, you can call for help without issue... But what if you're in rougher seas and time is precious? Always carry more than you'll need, I'd recommend bringing along 10-20% of your engine's capacity in a really big gas can but you can never really go wrong bringing even more.

Running Aground

Probably the most common boating accident is running aground. Sometimes it can be a laugh, but that guffawing comes about mostly due to sheer embarrassment. It's certainly avoidable. Some people go without running aground even once. I am not one of those people.

You first instinct will probably be to shove your boat off the bar and move on, but first you'll want to take a good look below for any leaks that might've sprung. It's much better to be sitting safely on a sandbar than it is to be actively sinking, right? To avoid running aground, you'll need to keep a good lookout, have an eye on your gear at all times, and keep yourself from becoming too inebriated.

common causes of boating accidents boat sandbar

Sinking Feeling

Boats do sink, and it's probably the worst boating accident that can happen. Luckily it hasn't happened to me or those close to me, but that is because we all take proper boating safety precautions.

The largest portion of these accidents don't happen from something ridiculous like hitting an iceberg of even colliding with another boater, they happen because through-hull fittings become worn out and aren't noticed until it's already too late.

When the leaking is relatively minimal it's perfectly possible to remove excess water with a manual bilge pump, but the amount of water often depends how long the fittings have been neglected. If they've not been maintained long enough to pop by themselves, then they're really going to go.

If the worst does come to pass and you are forced to abandon ship then hopping in a dinghy or life raft can save lives, but it won't do much aside from extending your situation unless you can get where you need to go. Better Boat's floating telescopic paddle is a must have for situations like this.

common causes of boating accidents boat sinking

Weather Permitting

Never ever get so attached to the idea of an outing that you're willing to put your passengers, yourself, or your boat at risk. You need to pay close attention to weather patterns and if things have even a slight chance of looking grim, don't be scared to take a literal rain-check. It's much more preferable to be ashore wishing you had gone than in the middle of rough seas wishing you hadn't.

Don't Drive Drunk

We all love to get sloshed out on the water every once in a while, but you really shouldn't. This applies just as much when piloting a watercraft as it does in a car. Of course I'll admit to enjoying a bloody mary or five, but that still doesn't make it a wise decision. Half of all boating accidents are caused while someone is intoxicated. You become careless, and your response time is impaired which can turn a small situation into a major disaster if you aren't careful.