Those who live within Sacramento are fortunate to have an abundance of boating destinations to choose from that are within a couple hours’ driving distance: the Sacramento River, Lake Tahoe, Clear Lake, Lake Orville, Lake Natoma, Folsom Lake, Lake Berryessa, Sly Park, Rollins, Camanche, Collins, the list goes on and on. Sacramento and Central California is one of the best places in the state and the country to go boating. But just as some choose to eschew their responsibilities while behind the wheels of their cars and trucks, some boaters act irresponsibly while out on the water.
Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, speeding, recklessness, negligence… all of the poor choices that plague our roadways also show up time and time again in our waterways. Every year, the poor choices of a few result in serious injury—or even death—to many. Many boaters don’t recognize that their boats and other personal watercraft are vehicles, just like those they drive on the road, with the potential to cause serious harm to their drivers or those around them. As a consequence, they fail to carry the necessary amount of insurance coverage, or sometimes any at all. This is especially common due to the fact that the California does not require boat owners to have boater’s insurance.
Dealing with the losses resulting from boating accidents can be especially difficult, due to the negligence and lack of insurance that are all too common. If you’ve been involved in an accident on the water, it’s important to have a personal injury attorney who is familiar with the specifics of the laws regulating boats and waterways in California. Due to our proximity to so many of this state’s most popular boating venues, Ashton & Price has a great deal of experience in dealing with boat and jet ski personal injury claims.
In order to guarantee the best possible outcome for your boating injury or accident case, contact Ashton & Price today.
Jet Ski Accidents
As is often the case with motorcycles and other motorbikes, jet skis, Waverunners, Sea-Doos, and other personal watercraft are too often piloted by operators who are too inexperienced, or even too young to be legally operating any motor vehicle in a public area. Some of the most common causes of accidents involving personal watercraft include:
- Drunkenness or intoxication
- Lack of proper training
- Speeding and reckless driving
- Lack of proper adult supervision
- Defects or improper maintenance of personal watercraft
Jet skis are extremely powerful watercraft, some of which can exceed 70 mph. As a result, they are capable of inflicting serious injury or even death when operated improperly. If you’ve been struck by a jet ski, or injured as a result of a collision with a personal watercraft, contact Ashton & Price. We have 20 years of experience in representing clients who were injured by personal watercraft in Sacramento’s many lakes and rivers.
How to Reduce Your Chances of Experiencing a Boating Accident
As everyone knows, accidents happen. Even the best drivers—whether on the road or in the water—are sometimes involved in serious accidents caused by other drivers or external factors. However, there are many safety precautions which, when properly followed, can greatly improve your odds for having a fun and stress-free day in the water.
- Don’t drink alcohol while out on the water. Consumption of alcohol is by far the leading cause of fatal boating accidents in the United States. While being implicated in a relatively small percentage of boating accidents, Boating Under the Influence (BUI) causes a far larger percentage of the deaths that occur every year. According to the U.S. Coast Guard’s annual report on Recreational Boating Statistics, while alcohol use was the primary contributing factor in 277 of the 2,289 operator-caused boating accidents that occurred in 2014 (12.1%), it was the primary contributing factor in more than 40.4% of the 267 boating-related deaths that occurred that year. Don’t drive drunk, no matter whether you’re driving a boat, or a car.
- Wear a life jacket. According to the California Department of Boating and Waterways, between 2008 and 2012, 160 people drowned in California’s waterways. Of those, more than 75% weren’t wearing a life jacket. Life jackets aren’t a guarantee against drowning, especially in rough or hazardous conditions, but they can make a major difference. Also, children under the age of 13 are required to wear a life jacket when on a boat under 26 feet in length.
- Watch the weather. Everyone knows that the number of car accidents goes up when the weather is bad. The same is true on the water. When the weather gets windy or stormy, head to shore. And remember, even a sunny day can be dangerous due to glare off of the water.
- Be especially carefully during peak boating hours in the early afternoon. For fatal accidents in 2012 for which the California Department of Boating and Waterways had data on the time of day when they occurred, 8% happened between 12 and 6 pm. The hours between 2 and 4 pm are especially dangerous, with 29.4% of fatal accidents occurring then.
- If your group is splitting up, don’t allow anyone to go alone. Stay in pairs, and let each other know when you’ll return. Of the exactly 4,000 boating accidents in 2014 for which the U.S. Coast Guard had data on the time of day when each accident occurred,
- Follow driving rules. In the state of California, when two car drivers arrive at a four-way stop at the same time, and are headed in separate directions so that their paths will cross, the driver on the left must yield to the driver on his immediate right. The same rule holds true on the water. If a boat is approaching you from your right so that your paths will intersect, you must change course or slow down in order to yield the right of way. And while following these rules can help prevent you from legal responsibility, in order to avoid an accident altogether, never assume that other drivers will heed the rules. Remain observant at all times.
- Carry safety equipment. Just as many safety conscientious car drivers will carry flashlights, flares, maps, a first aid kit, and water, it’s smart to do the same when you’re on your boat. Always carry portable boat lights to illuminate your craft in case the engine or electrical system fails, and make sure all safety equipment is sealed and will float. And never leave shore without an anchor.
You Don’t Need a License to Drive a Boat, But Not Everyone Can Legally Drive One
While most states in the United States require boat and jet ski drivers to obtain a boating license, California is not one of them (though those convicted of moving violations on California rivers and lakes are required to take a boating safety course to regain their right to drive watercraft). However, the state does enforce minimum age restrictions for driving boats and jet skis.
Anyone who drives a watercraft with a motor of more than 15 horsepower must be at least 16 years of age or older. Children 12 to 15 years of age may drive such a craft if supervised on board by someone at least 18 years old. Children under 12 years old may not operate any watercraft of more than 15 hp. It is illegal to permit anyone under the age of 12 to drive a watercraft, or to allow anyone between the ages of 12 and 15 to operate one without proper supervision.