What is the Cause of Most Fatal Boating Accidents?

motor boat on lake, speed boat

Summer is heating up, and if you’re trying to beat the heat by taking your boat out onto the lake, there are some safety practices that you should be aware of to help prevent accidents that could lead to injury or even death.

Main Causes of Fatal Boating Accidents, and How to Avoid Them

More people are enjoying the recreational activities that our area has to offer than ever before, and as a result boating accidents are on the rise as well. Here are some of the main factors that can contribute to the worst-case scenario, when it comes to an accident occurring and determining transportation liability on the water.

Operator Error

Whether there was negligence, inattention, or inexperience, the captain of the vessel (no matter the size) is responsible for the safety of those not only on their own boat, but those in the water or on other craft as well. Many operators (especially those new to the sport) are under the mistaken impression that operating a boat is easier than operating a vehicle and fail to take the extra care or invest in the education and training that is necessary to operate it safely. Obstacles can be struck, other boaters and swimmers are placed in danger, and the proper respect for the weather may not be given when the operator is inexperienced.

Improper Lookout

This factor often coincides with Operator Error, as it’s the responsibility of the operator of the boat to either designate other look-outs while operating the boat or ensure that others are safe themselves. Improper lookout scenarios involve having swimmers or skiers in the water and not ensuring that they aren’t in danger of being struck and killed either by their own vessel or another and drowning. This also includes ensuring the boat is equipped with the proper flagging equipment, and that everyone on board knows how and when to use them.

Operator Intoxication

Operating a boat while under the influence of alcohol or other substances is not only a serious safety violation but an illegal act that can lead to the injury or death of others while on the water. But it’s not just the operator of the boat that needs to respect and maintain sobriety, their passengers are more at risk of slipping, falling in, and drawing when under the influence as well. It’s imperative to prioritize sobriety, for yourself as the operator and your passengers as well to avoid preventable injuries and deaths while you’re out enjoying the water this summer.


Much like when we are operating a motor vehicle on the road, speed kills. Our reaction times are decreased, and our ability to safely navigate around obstacles, other boats, swimmers, and changes in the surface of the water and surroundings are severely impacted when speeding. Failure to observe either the posted limits (or rules of navigation) while boating is one of the number one causes of accidents on the water, and one that can easily be prevented by slowing down.

Mechanical Failure

Whether the result of manufacturer defect, operator negligence or something else, when a boat experiences mechanical failures accidents can occur that can also lead to injury or death. The craft can come to a sudden stop, fail to turn and crash into an obstacle or other boat, sink, and even catch on fire. Depending on the size of the body of water you are on, an inoperable boat can leave you stranded for a potentially significant period of time as well. While not all mechanical failures can be prevented, some can easily be prevented with proper maintenance, manufacturing, and inspection.

Read more on how to avoid boat accidents on Lake Michigan

Water recreation is one of our most treasured past-times and can be an enjoyable experience for everyone involved when proper boater safety precautions are observed and followed. But when an accident has occurred, you may be faced with medical expenses, long-term pain, loss of income, or the loss of a loved one due to no fault of your own.

If you have lost a friend or loved one due to a boating accident, you may need to contact a boating accident attorney to assess what legal options might be available.

Contact us today for a Free Case Evaluation