The U.S. Coast Guard found that over 80 percent of lives lost in boating accidents could have been saved by lifejackets.

In 2020, the Coast Guard estimates that there were 5,265 recreational boating accidents that caused 767 deaths, 3,191 injuries, and approximately $62.5 million in property damage.  Of the reported deaths, 75 percent of the victims drowned, with 86 percent of the drowning victims not wearing lifejackets.  Boating activity rose dramatically during the pandemic and, unfortunately, so did boating accidents and deaths.

Of the reported 5,265 accidents, 25 occurred in Mississippi, 96 occurred in Alabama, and 124 occurred in Louisiana.  Of the 767 reported deaths, 6 occurred in Mississippi, 19 occurred in Alabama, and 24 occurred in Louisiana.  The majority of these accidents occurred on lakes, ponds, reservoirs, dams, or gravel pits.  Bad weather conditions had no bearing on these accidents, as the majority occurred during the day with calm water conditions.

Alcohol abuse is the leading known cause for fatal boating accidents.  Alcohol can be more dangerous on the water than on land due to several compounding factors: sun, wind, engine vibration, and boat movement.  All of these factors can cause fatigue leading to a person’s coordination and judgement declining faster than someone on land.

The best way to avoid unforeseen accidents is to not have alcohol on aboard.  This takes down the risk of injury to yourself and of intoxicated passengers being injured or falling overboard.  If you want to have alcohol, plan a party ashore either at the dock, in a picnic area, or a boating club.  Then, wait a reasonable time, estimated at a minimum of an hour per drink, before operating your boat again.  We know this is not a popular view, and that you may continue to have drinks onboard your boat, but we ask that you do so responsibly.

How Do Lifejackets Save Lives?

Lifejackets provide buoyancy, which keeps you afloat for instances where you find yourself in the water unexpectedly, when you’re unable to keep yourself afloat due to fatigue or injury, or if you are a weak swimmer.

When it comes to the size and fit of a lifejacket, be sure to check the label for user weight and chest size, as different body types float differently, and ensure that it is a good fit that is secure, comfortable, and adjustable.

All in all, the best lifejacket is the one you will wear.

What should you do if you or someone you love has been involved in a boating accident:

  • Call 911 immediately. Your health and safety are top priorities.
  • Make sure everyone is still onboard, or get them back onboard as soon as possible.
  • File a police report and only state the facts.
  • Take as many photos of the accident as you can.
  • Even if you feel okay, go see a doctor.  Symptoms may not surface right away.
  • Call our office so we can help you navigate your case.
  • Focus on your recovery, while we handle the claims, medical bills, and insurance companies for you.

If you, or a loved one, have been injured in an accident, anywhere in Mississippi, please contact the Diaz Law Firm today and speak with one of our attorneys.  You can reach us online or by calling our toll-free number at 800-459-2222.

For more boating safety tips from the U.S. Coast Guard, visit https://uscgboating.org/index.php.

To read the U.S. Coast Guard’s magazine, Boating Safety, visit https://www.boatingsafetymag.com/boatingsafety/.