After recording its lowest number of deaths in 2019, Tennessee documented the highest number of fatal boating accidents in 2020. As reported by the Nashville Tennessean, officials noted 32 deaths and 61 catastrophic incidents involving vessels in 2020.
According to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, first-time and inexperienced boaters contributed to the accidents. Intoxication from alcohol and other substances may have also contributed to the record-breaking number of fatalities.
Operator inattention and improper lookout
Regardless of experience, operators can improve their safety habits. Distractions that contribute to operator inattention include texting, eating and handling maps or a GPS navigation device. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, boat operators may reduce the risks of accidents by paying close attention to their vessels, the environment and their occupants.
An improper lookout may cause crashes with boats, swimmers or objects. Operators have a legal requirement to use radar or other equipment to prevent collisions. If an operator’s line of sight appears blocked or impaired, another individual may act as a lookout, as noted by BOATERexam.com.
Consumption of alcohol while onboard
Individuals may consume alcohol on anchored and moored vessels. Under Tennessee’s implied consent law, an operator agrees to submit to a blood-alcohol content test. If an officer alleges intoxication contributed to a boating accident, he or she may request that an involved operator submits to a BAC test.
Regular maintenance helps keep a vessel free from safety hazards. Anchor lights and engine shutoff switches, for example, lower the risk of accidents. Flotation devices and life vests may also reduce the number of fatalities, according to the Coast Guard.
Operators who pay attention and maintain their vessels can do their part in preventing catastrophic accidents. An accident causing severe injury, however, may require legal action to cover medical expenses and property damage.