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The dangers of distracted boat driving

Karns & Kerrison

While motorists are constantly warned against the dangers of distracted driving, it turns out that boaters in Rhode Island are also in need of a reminder. According to the 2015 statistics from the U.S. Coast Guard, operator inattention was the number one reason for boating accidents. Distracted boat drivers were the cause of over 500 incidents in 2015 alone, making it an important topic for discussion.

The National Association of State Boating Law Administrators reported that 22-24 percent of boating accidents were due to improper lookout and operator inattention combined. Between 9 and 14 percent of fatalities related to boating were also caused by distraction during those years.

Common causes of boating accidents include many different types of distractions. Electronic distraction can include a phone or spotlight, but can also mean the driver was attempting to use a radio, radar or navigation device. Objects on the boat, such as electronics, can also cause a lighting glare that prevents drivers from being able to see well. Lighting on shorelines, docks and other boats can cause background lighting that distracts or lowers visibility. Drivers who are eating, smoking or drinking fall into the category of performing distracting activities. Other things, such as sightseeing or talking with other passengers onboard can also be included.

These reasons are all used in police reports following an accident and need to be avoided by all drivers.

As the number of accidents caused by distracted boat driving increases, government agencies strive to educate boaters and enforce stricter regulations. They are also pushing authorities to report reasons for distraction after an accident in an attempt to better understand the risks of certain activities.


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