This week off the waters of Southern California, two bodies and a crushed boat were pulled from the Pacific Ocean. The man was identified as Henry Sanchez, the brother of two congresswomen from Orange County, and his girlfriend, Penny Avila. Although the investigation has just begun as to the cause of this horrific boating accident, questions are being raised as to the fault and negligence. Did the tug have the proper light sequence indicating that he was towing a barge, had the driver gone through boating safety classes to know what the lights meant?
In Californian there are close to one million boats of all types registered here in the golden state. Here in Orange County, we are blessed with year-round good facilities such as Newport Beach and Dana Point harbors. Tragically, California also has the highest vessel accident rate, usually involving serious personal injury. Although fatalities are down from last year, our injury rate and property damages have increased. There are a number of explanations as to why people get into boating accidents; excessive speed, inattention, reckless operation, and alcohol. Would mandatory safety classes really make boat owners safer? The state’s legislative arm is undecided.
There is currently much debate in the state capital to whether safety boating classes for all vessel owners would reduce accidents. Two years ago, Assemblyman Michael Duvall, R-Brea introduced new legislation, AB 1458, which has continuously stalled in Sacramento. The bill would require operators of motorized vessels to pass an examination and obtain a life-time certificate before they operate a vehicle. Currently there are safety courses available but they are taken on a voluntary basis. One factor in the legislation that doesn’t make sense is that they would not require people who rent boats to have such a certificate. These people are typically the least trained operators.
There are currently 33 other states that have mandatory class and/or licensing regulations and it has decreased injury and accident statistics significantly. In California, 86% of last years’ fatalities occurred on boat owners that had not taken any safety course. Although many people think that driving boat is similar to a car, it is not. They are many different lights, signs, rules of the waterway to learn. Over 40% of serious incidences with boats involve collisions with other boats. The one major factor that will save lives in boating accidents is the life jacket or personal flotation device (pfd). Two-thirds of all boating accident victims drowned and 90% of them did not wear life jackets. A good rule of thumb is to have a safety jacket for each person aboard your boat. As the owner of a boat, as is similar to owning a car, you are responsible for the well-being of your passengers.
If you have been injured in a boating accident, please don’t hesitate to call a professional personal injury attorney immediately. Let the experts handle the corporate battle while you recover from your injuries. Unless you have previous experience in these matters, you may lose out on your rights and compensation.
The California Department of Boating and Waterways publishes an excellent brochure entitled, “ABC’s of the California Boating law”. It is freely available from the website www.dbw.ca.gov/pubs/abc/. In addition, they offer a free home study course called, California Boating Safety. Call 916-263-1331 for more information.
There are also many free courses on boating safety offered by the local boating squadron near you. Call 1-888-FOR-USPS for more information.