Distracted Boating: Is It as Dangerous as Distracted Driving?

Many of us enjoy fishing, jet skis, or simply relaxing on a boat. In Texas alone, there are more than 595,000 registered boats. Whether onboard a sailboat, motorboat, paddleboat, or another type of personal watercraft, the operator must be extremely careful.

While distracted driving accidents on our nation's roadways have become an epidemic and gained national attention, many boaters do not remember the same safety rules when they take their driving off the road and into the water. Boating accidents are common, and can cause catastrophic injuries and death.

Boating accidents are frequently caused after drinking alcohol. They are often caused when an inexperienced or unlicensed operator is driving the boat, operating the boat while distracted by a mobile device or another activity, operator inattention, or driving too fast. Boating while intoxicated is a criminal offense.

Operator error, distraction, and intoxication are unfortunately not limited to recreational watercraft use alone. Professional captains have been caught using cell phones during fatal collisions. Additionally, lookouts aboard maritime vessels have also been found to be using their cell phones during fatal offshore accidents. The rapid growth in the use of wireless devices wreaks havoc for operators of all types of vehicles, including trains, buses, boats, and cars.

Distracted boating is as dangerous as distracted driving. No matter what or where you are driving, pay attention to your surroundings, use common sense, and don't text and drive. Use your boat's lights if the weather or visibility calls for it. Don't drink and operate any water-going vessel. Obey speed and traffic laws in the water just as you would when driving your car on the road.

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