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Whether you are enjoying a nice fun day on the water or you’re just fishing, always avoid texting while driving a boat to be safe and avoid an unnecessary accident. Texting while driving an automobile has become a major problem that has resulted in so many injuries and deaths, but texting while driving a boat can be even more dangerous with traffic coming from all directions. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Commission, five seconds is how long it takes when you take your eyes off the road to send or receive text messages. Even though boat operators don’t really think about this, the same amount of time will pass if you are texting while boating; being distracted in this manner can lead to serious problems on the water.

Unlike cars on the road, boats can approach from all directions, and can also come in vastly different sizes and may move at a very different speed. When using a smartphone or any other electronic devices while boating, it is important to know the risks of distracted boating. In 2009, the two highly publicized boating accidents were caused by the issue of texting while boating. On December 25th, 2009, a 25-foot-long U.S. Coast Guard was returning to port around 8:30 pm after providing a security escort to a cargo ship when it collided with a 55-foot boat full of passengers who were enjoying some nighttime sightseeing cruise. 6 of 24 people on the sightseeing cruise had to be treated for injuries and fortunately, no one was killed. According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the cause of the collision was the inadequate lookout by the crew members of both vessels, given the speed at which they were being operated and the nighttime conditions. However, it was later discovered that the Coast Guard crew members in that accident were texting and talking on their cellphones at the time of the crash.

According to the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, in 2015-2016 accident statistics shows that distracted boating and improper lookout landed in the number three spot. National statistics from the last five years reveal that operator’s inattention and improper lookout, accounted for between 22 and 24 percent of the total reported boating accidents annually, keeping them top five primary contributing factors. 

Texting while driving a boat is not the only problem, but there are also many other activities that contribute to distracted boating accidents as well, such as eating, drinking, talking to a passenger, reading (including maps) and even adjusting the stereo or electronics. Just a few moments of not paying attention can lead to injuries or even deaths when a boat collides with other boats or any unnoticed obstructions or when a craft swamps or capsizes because the driver didn’t see big waves or wakes. You cannot operate a boat safely if you’re not giving the craft your full attention, and any other activity you engage in while driving is a potential distraction and increases the chances of you crashing.

Some of the tips for safe boating will be not to use your phone in any way, whether texting or calling. Secondly, make sure you eat before getting on a boat because eating while driving can also be a distraction, imagine trying to take a bite of your food with one hand and driving with the other, which mean your attention is automatically divided. Third thing is to make sure you know where you are going. Messing around with your GPS while driving can be a huge distraction. Lastly, watch out for other distracted boat drivers. Just because you are not distracted does not mean others are not. So be vigilant and stay in control so that you can be ready to react when someone else makes a wrong move.

Somethings can’t be prevented, while a lot of things can be prevented. For example, mechanical or electronic failures are usually nobody’s fault, but being distracted while driving is 100% preventable and all we need to do to pay attention and commit to avoid distraction while driving. If everyone can do this, the water will be a safe place for everyone.

Posted 12:00 PM

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