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Recreational Boating Fatalities On The Rise In Alabama

Rock legends Lynard Skynyrd sang that "Muscle Shoals has got The Swampers," in their southern rock anthem, "Sweet Home Alabama." Muscle Shoals, Ala., apparently has something else: an increase in recreational boating accidents on its nearby lakes. One such accident involved two boats that collided with each other during a weekly bass fishing tournament. One of the operators, a 31-year-old fisherman, was killed. Investigators noted that there were conflicting accounts of how the accident occurred.

Sobering Statistics

The Alabama Marine Police have noted an increase in boat collisions on northern Alabama's lakes this year and are concerned. Nationwide, the United States Coast Guard reports that while the number of recreational boating accidents is down slightly, the number of fatalities increased by almost four percent.

Approximately 75 percent of all boating fatalities involved drowning, and the vast majority of those who died were not wearing life preservers. Statistics also show that alcohol and water do not mix. Alcohol use was the leading factor in 16 percent of boating deaths. The Coast Guard also cited operator inattention, excessive speed, and improper lookout as major causes of fatal boating accidents. Motorboats accounted for 46 percent of all reported accidents. Personal watercraft were involved in 22 percent of all accidents. Only 14 percent of the fatalities occurred on boats operated by individuals who had received instruction in boating safety.

Safety Precautions

If you plan on boating in Alabama, or anywhere else, follow these safety precautions published by the Unites States Coast Guard Auxiliary:

  • Make sure your boat is in top operating condition.
  • Have on board all safety equipment required by law and know how to use it.
  • Know the operating and handling characteristics of your boat.
  • File a float plan that states where you're headed with a friend or relative.
  • Know your boat's position and where you are going.
  • Maintain a safe speed at all times.
  • Watch for changing weather conditions, and act accordingly.
  • Know and obey all applicable Federal and state boating rules and regulations.
  • Know and obey Federal and state waterway markers.
  • Keep a clear, unobstructed view in front of your boat at all times.

If you are injured in a watercraft accident, be sure to consult with an attorney experienced in boating and watercraft injuries.


U.S. Coast Guard

The Huntsville Times