Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Water Highway

Unlike cars, boats are considered as recreational vehicles and it’s sometimes difficult to imagine that anything can go wrong in a fun cruise or in a leisurely outing. But boating accidents can happen just as easily (although not quite as often) as car accidents.

A young man was seriously injured when his father’s powerboat crashed against the boat he was driving on Mission Bay. According to officials, the pair was racing when the father lost control of his 25-foot power boat and crashed into his son's 18-foot boat and trapped him.

The son’s boat went out of control and crashed onto Ski Beach. Rescuers pulled the son from the wreckage who was alone in the boat, he was bleeding and unconscious.

The San Diego police harbor unit is investigating the crash as the basic speed law on Mission Bay requires boaters to slow down within 100 feet of another vessel.

Being out in the open water may seem like the perfect place to speed and pull off cool moves and races but in reality, it is not safe.

In 2008 alone, the United States Coast Guard counted 4789 accidents that involved 709 deaths, 3331 injuries and approximately $54 million dollars of damage to property.

While alcohol is the leading contributing factor to boating accidents, the careless/reckless operation of a boat and excessive speeding are also a leading cause for boat crashes.

Yes, the settings may be different but the circumstances for the occurrence of an accident on the road and on water can be very similar. Boats should be operated just as responsibly and safely as driving a car in a highway.

In fact, just as car drivers are required to observe California’s Basic Speed Law, there are posted signs on all of California’s waters that provide the area’s speed limits.

In all cases however, the speed limit is 5 mph anytime the vessel is within 100 ft of a bather or within 200 feet of a bathing beach, swimming float, diving platform or life line, passenger landing being used, or landing where boats are tied up.

It’s too easy to justify speeding and racing while on water, after all, there are no pedestrians, no cars, and no motorcycles. But boating can still be dangerous especially if the driver is behaving in a reckless and careless manner, if not for the hapless swimmers, but for the boaters themselves. The open sea or bay may not be a regular street but it is a highway for other water vessels and people.