Top Causes of Boating Accidents

One of the great benefits of living in Oregon is our access to abundant and beautiful outdoor resources. People hike and bike throughout the year. In winter, many Oregonians enjoy skiing and snowboarding. And when it’s warm enough and the weather permits, water sports attract thousands of people looking for outdoor fun. Some people paddleboard or sail, while others enjoy sports associated with motorboats, such as skiing, fishing, and pleasure cruising.

While many boaters enjoy the water without issue, injuries do occur. In fact, they probably occur more frequently than most people realize. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the top causes of boating accidents and some steps worth taking to make sure you stay safe.

The Scope of the Danger

According to the United States Coast Guard (USCG), 4,145 recreational boating accidents occurred in 2018, which resulted in 633 deaths, 2,511 injuries, and property damage totaling approximately $46 million. This represents a fatality rate of 5.3 deaths per 100,000 registered vessels. The good news is that these numbers show an improvement over the fatality rates in 2017.

Causes of Boating Accidents

A wide range of behaviors and circumstances can lead to boating accidents. We’ll discuss six of them below.

  1. Alcohol – It probably won’t surprise anyone that alcohol leads to boating crashes and other accidents. After all, many people associate alcohol with sun, sand, and water. Unfortunately, just as with automobiles, operating a boat while under the influence of an intoxicant can slow reflexes, impair judgment, and lead to horrific accidents. In fact, the USCG identifies alcohol consumption as the “leading known contributing factor” in fatal accidents, causing 19 percent of boating deaths.
  2. Lack of instruction – It turns out that boating safety instruction can be very important. According to the USCG, in those cases where it was known whether or not a boat operator received safety instruction, it turned out that 74 percent of fatalities occurred on vessels operated by a person who had not received boating safety instruction.
  3. Operator inattention - Just as with the operation of cars, inattention by boat operators is a big source of boating accidents. While coast guard statistics do not reveal the precise form of inattention, we can speculate that distraction plays a role, just as it does in car and semi-truck accidents.
  4. Excessive speed – Driving too fast is dangerous, no matter what kind of boat or vehicle is involved.
  5. Operator inexperience – This is another factor that comes as no surprise. Inexperienced operators, just like inexperienced automobile drivers, tend to make more mistakes than those with more experience.
  6. Running out of gas – At first blush, this might not sound so dangerous. However, depending on where you are boating, such as on the ocean, extreme danger can result if you run out of gas.

How to Stay Safe

The following boat safety tips can help you avoid preventable boating accidents.

  • If you plan to operate a boat, make sure that you are properly trained. Obtaining a nationally approved boating safety education certificate is a great start.
  • Keep safety equipment on board.
  • Make sure you have plenty of gas.
  • If you swim, make sure to stay away from the propeller. Many injuries occur from propeller strikes.
  • Never operate a boat while drinking or using drugs.
  • Use the same common sense you use when driving a car: pay close attention, avoid distraction, and do not drive too fast.
  • If you’re a passenger, do not ride with boat operators who violate these rules.
  • Finally, always wear a life jacket. Statistics show that 77 percent of those who died in boating accidents drowned. Moreover, of those who drowned, the Coast Guard reports that 84 percent of them were not wearing a life jacket.

Call with Questions

If you’ve been injured in a boating accident due to another person’s negligence, you may be entitled to recover damages for your injuries. The experienced boating accident lawyers at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield are here to answer your questions. We believe that it is important to hold wrongdoers accountable for their actions so that all Oregon boaters will be made safer. We look forward to hearing from you.


Call us at 1.877.928.9147 For A Free Consultation!

Awards & Recognitions

The American Association for Justice award logo Oregon Trial Lawyers Association Membership Badge Nelson MacNeil Rayfield Trial Attorneys PC BBB Business Review
AV Preeminent Award for Ethical Standards and Legal Ability. The highest peer rating standard. Super Lawyers Award Logo

We are proud sponsors of:

NMR sponsored Boys and Girls Club of Albany, The YMCA, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and more.