As the weather finally improves across the country, Louisiana residents may be getting their boats ready for short voyages out onto the waters with their family and friends. However, boat safety is just as important as vehicle safety, if not more, as cold water is added to the equation in a recreational boating accident.

Tragically, the fatality rate in boating accidents has gone up between 2015 and 2016. In 2016, the fatality rate was 5.9 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels, according to the United States Coast Guard’s Boating Safety Division. This was an 11.3 percent increase from 5.3 in 2015. The number of accidents also saw an increase of 7.3 percent, deaths increased by 12 percent and injuries increased by 11.1 percent.

Alcohol seemed to be the biggest contributing factor to boating accidents. Where the cause of the accident was known, it accounted for 15 percent of them. Eighty percent of boating accident victims died by drowning, and of these, 83 percent were not wearing life jackets. Additionally, 77 percent of these deaths took place on vessels where the operator was not given a nationally approved boating safety education certification. Operator inattention, improper lookout, excessive speed, machinery failure and operator inexperience were the top contributory factors to the accident.

As the data above demonstrates, most of the boating accidents taking place across the country, including Louisiana, can be avoided if the operator behaves in a responsible manner and ensures he or she is trained properly. When they fail to do so, their negligence can result in a fatal boating accident that can turn a pleasant outing into a nightmare.