Safety on the Water: How to Avoid Tennessee Boating Accidents

Lerner & Rowe Injury Attorneys

A good time on the water can be what memories are made of. However, good times sometimes turn bad when the unexpected occurs. At Lerner and Rowe® Injury Attorneys, we want you to be prepared while out on any of the numerous lakes, rivers, and streams found near Nashville. So here are a few safety tips to keep in mind to help avoid Tennessee boating accidents and other unpleasant aquatic situations.

Bring Life Jackets

In 2017 – and for many previous years – most fatalities on the water were caused by drowning, and of those that drowned, over 80% weren’t wearing a life jacket. Life jackets are not accessories; they are necessities. In fact, they are required by law to be on your vessel (one for each person on board).

Orange life jacket on boat.

Above all, make sure your life jackets are U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) approved, and practice using them; you don’t want to be in a situation where you need them yet cannot figure out how they work. Teach your children, especially.

Many people believe life jackets are too cumbersome because they are uncomfortable or otherwise too difficult to operate. This is not true – many modern life jackets are comfortable and easy to use. So don’t take a chance, and bring life jackets with you when you go boating.

TIP: You should also bring other rescue devices such as throwable rings or cushions to aid people that are in trouble in the water.

Pack Equipment

Other safety equipment besides life jackets are essential for your boating activities. For example, you should always bring a waterproof whistle with you in case of emergency. Why? The sound of a whistle is a universal signal that you need help, which makes it a wise investment to have on hand for when something unexpected occurs.

Accordingly, pack other things, too, like a flashlight, blankets, a first aid kit, a knife, a bucket, waterproof matches, a fire extinguisher, flares, and anything else you may need in an emergency. Think worst case scenario. What would you need if you were stranded and your rescue was hours away?

While this is scary to think about, it’s always better to be prepared. With that in mind, it is also good to make sure you have enough non-perishable foods and water bottles to hold everyone over for at least a day.

Aside from that, if you’re boating where cell phone service is possible, make sure your phone is charged and the gps tracking feature is activated. Doing so will allow you to call for help and help others locate you faster.

TIP: Never overload your vessel with too much equipment and people. Putting too much weight on your boat can capsize it, and no one wants that.

Check the Vessel

Before you go boating, you should have an inspection performed on your vessel. You can check it out yourself, or you can have an official from the U.S. Coast Guard inspect your vessel for free.

If your vessel does not pass the Coast Guard inspection, you won’t receive a citation. Instead, you’ll receive a written report on how to fix any problems.

Common boat inspections will check:

  • Electrical integrity
  • Leakage in ventilation
  • Navigational lights
  • Properly functioning propellers
  • Proper registration

TIP: Make sure your boat is in tip-top shape before hitting the water. While you won’t receive a citation at the time of an inspection by the Coast Guard, serious vessel problems can get you in trouble if you decide to go boating without fixing them.

Monitor the Weather

Just as the weather affects how people drive on the road, so too does the weather affect how people boat on the water. You should always check the weather forecasts before setting sail. Use both the radio and television as sources of weather information, along with your cell phone and online weather news sites.

Boat in turbulent weather.

Take note that even if the forecast is clear, the weather can still be unpredictable. If you notice large, gray clouds coming your way, or if you hear thunder, don’t go out in the water. Similarly, if you notice that the temperature suddenly dropped, or if you see turbulent motions in the water, head for shore immediately. In short, you shouldn’t be in the water when the weather conditions make your trip not only difficult but also unsafe.

TIP: Know the signs of a thunderstorm, as they can be a nightmare when you’re out on the water in a boat. Signs include clouds, a darkening sky, lightning, and wind that is also usually coupled with a sudden drop in temperature.

Tell Others of Your Trip

You should tell others of your trip so you can be rescued more easily and quickly in an emergency. Tell your friends and family members that are staying on shore where you’re going and how long you’ll be out on the water. This way, if you’re gone longer than expected, they know to check up on you or call for help.

You can always leave your information with the head of your local marina. It’s always good to inform them of who’s on board as well. This way, you’ll have an extra person watching over you and your passengers.

TIP: Bring another person with you. If you’re alone when an emergency happens, you’ll have to deal with it yourself. However, with another person on board, help is always nearby.

Stay Away from Alcohol

Alcohol is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating incidents and plays a role in at least 19% of fatalities in the water. In fact, over 100 deaths and over 200 injuries involved alcohol while on board a vessel.

Furthermore, alcohol impairs your judgment. Just as it’s dangerous to drink and drive on the road, it’s equally as dangerous to drink and operate a boat. The driver isn’t the only one that shouldn’t be drinking–all people on board should refrain from drinking alcohol.

Wine glasses on edge of boat.

In brief, many Tennessee boating accidents are caused by the driver operating a boat under the influence, but passengers also sometimes end up hurting themselves and others from drinking too much alcohol. Save the liquor for when you’re on dry land and in a safe, indoor environment with people you trust.

Operate the Boat Safely

Of course, knowing how to safely operate your boat is of crucial importance. Proper boating education and knowledge of your boat can save your life and is required in the state of Tennessee. Make sure you possess the appropriate certifications to operate your vessel.

In addition, use common sense! This means you shouldn’t make any risky maneuvers; always operate your boat at a comfortable level within your skillset. Speeding on the water and trying to do advanced and dangerous tricks can lead to tragic Tennessee boating accidents.

TIP: Have a backup operator. If an emergency occurs and the initial operator of the vessel is unable to perform their duties, someone else that knows how to operate the boat should always be present.

Know How to Swim

Every person on board your vessel should know how to swim. No exceptions. While no one necessarily plans to take a dip in the water, unforeseen circumstances can happen. Knowing how to swim can save your life. Additionally, knowing how to swim can allow you to possibly rescue others that are in trouble in the water. Without the knowledge of how to swim, both you and others may suffer in the event of an emergency.

If you don’t know how to swim, don’t be ashamed. It’s a skill that takes practice, but once you learn, you’ll never forget it. Consider taking swimming classes offered by American Red Cross. You may also be able to find local swimming lessons to teach your children how to swim.

TIP: Take a lifeguard course if you own a vessel. It may save countless lives and prepare you in the event of an emergency.

Have a Backup Plan

Do you have a way to contact someone on land? Do you have life jackets and other rescue devices? How will you handle the worst case scenario? Does everyone know what to do in the event of an emergency?

Come up with your own backup plan by answering these important questions. For the most part, everyone’s backup plan is slightly different, but the essence of each includes these details:

  1. Know beforehand what to do in an emergency
  2. Pack the equipment necessary for remedying the emergency
  3. Execute the steps necessary for when an emergency occurs

Consequently, you may have several backup plans depending on what emergency occurs. Hence, make sure you and all your passengers also know what to do in case of an emergency.

TIP: You cannot always plan for everything. However, can do your best to try and remain calm. In short, a clear mind can ultimately help you come up with a solution for a bad situation.

Dock and Anchor Properly

Once your journey is over, you still have to dock and anchor your boat properly. This may seem trivial, but in fact, docking and anchoring is an important step in avoiding damage to your vessel.  

First, ensure that your anchors are suited for your vessel. This means they shouldn’t be too large or too heavy. Second, drop them in a v-formation in relation to your boat for the greatest stability. If necessary, drop them in deeper waters (no less than 20 feet down) to anchor your boat. When dropping anchor, make sure no one is in the water beneath you.

Then when docking, make sure you gauge your boat’s movements carefully. The wind can affect the motions of your boat, and you may need to approach the dock at a different angle and with different speeds depending on the weather. Likewise, turbulent waters, wind, and other conditions can affect how you dock your boat, so practice docking your vehicle in different weather conditions so you know what to do in such cases.

Consider Safety Classes

Even if you already have proper boating certification, safety courses are always helpful for everyone on board. Passengers should also consider taking boating safety courses to become familiar with boating equipment and emergency/safety procedures. Being ignorant in an emergency will never help; therefore, everyone going on the water should know the rules.

If your passengers have not taken boating safety courses, you should at the very least inform them yourself of boating safety rules and emergency protocols before you head out. By taking the time prior to heading out on the water, you can ensure they know the shoulds and should nots of riding in a boat. Ultimately, your goal is to keep your passengers and yourself from becoming victims of Tennessee boating accidents!

One Last Thing . . .

If you ever have trouble remembering our safety tips to avoid Tennessee boating accidents, check out the infographic below with our top safety tips for staying safe on the water.

Tennessee boating accidents
Lerner and Rowe’s Tennessee boating safety tips.

Suffer Injuries from Tennessee Boating Accidents?

Were you hurt in a Tennessee boating accident? Contact Lerner and Rowe Injury Attorneys today! Our Nashville personal injury lawyers are experts in boating accident law, and will fight for the compensation you deserve.

Give us a call at (615) 333-8888 or contact us on the web and check out our LiveChat feature. Consultations are free, and we don’t collect a penny until we win your case. Don’t wait a minute more; call Lerner and Rowe right away!

The information on this blog is for general information purposes only. Nothing herein should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.