Boating Accidents Can Cost Lives: Erin Brockovich Arrest Reminder of Need for Boating Safety This Summer

Boating Accidents Can Cost Lives: Erin Brockovich Arrest Reminder of Need for Boating Safety This Summer

Erin Brockovich, the famous personal injury lawyer’s legal assistant made famous in a movie named after her and starring Julia Roberts, was arrested recently for violating Nevada DUI laws. Not that Erin Brockovich was driving a car while over the legal limit for blood alcohol content; no, Ms. Brockovich was arrested on Lake Mead for driving a BOAT on the waters while intoxicated.  She has issued a public apology in response.

Still, there may be some who think that having fun on a lake in a boat isn’t the same as driving a car or SUV on a local road or freeway, even though there are real dangers in boating that everyone should know. The safety of the boater and others depends upon this — and serious personal injuries (brain injuries, spinal cord injuries) or even death can result from boat accidents.

Here in June, as Summer 2013 begins, it’s a good time to remember that fun on the water includes keeping yourself and your loved ones safe — from yourself as well as others having fun on the water.

Consider this. In 2012, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources reports the following:

  • Illinois had 101 USCG Reportable Accidents in FFY12, resulting in 69 injuries and 19 fatalities.
  • Last year Illinois had 103 USCG Reportable Accidents in FFY11, resulting in 70 injuries and 21 fatalities.
  • The total number of registered boats continues to decline from 319,559 last year to 312,664 this year.
  • Conservation Police Officers (CPOs) made 123 operating under the influence (OUI) of alcohol or drugs arrests. Other Law Enforcement agencies made 86 OUI arrests, for a total of 209 OUI arrests.
  • In FFY12, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources Office (IDNR) of Law Enforcement saw a significant increase in the amount of hours worked on the Recreational Boat Safety Program (RBS) from FFY11. A total of 50,664 (46% increase) of which 15,885 hours (28% increase) were spent on-thewater.
  • Although additional time was spent on-the-water, enforcement activity decreased slightly. There were 1,230 citations issued (down .23%) and 3,972 written warnings (down .15%) in FFY12, compared to 1,520 citations and 4,581 written warnings the previous year.
  • CPOs inspected 20,015 vessels, provided assistance to a combination of 2,231 persons and vessels Boating accident reports indicate the majority of accidents occur between June and July, on Saturday or Sunday, between 12 p.m. and 6 p.m. Conditions are usually clear with good visibility, light winds, and calm water. Most accidents involve operators between the ages of twenty and forty who have over one hundred hours of boating experience but have little or no classroom boating safety instruction. They
  • also involve open motorboats cruising in a careless/reckless manner culminating in a collision with another boat.
  • 19 people died in 16 Illinois boating accidents.
  • 9 fatalities occurred during the week and 10 on the weekend
  • 15 fatalities with clear conditions and 13 with calm waters.
  • The winds were light to moderate (16) with good visibility (15)
  • In the majority of fatalities, the operators had no formal boat safety education (19).
  • 10 out of 19 fatalities involved alcohol/drug impairment
  • The leading type of accidents involving fatalities was falls overboard
  • Once again, the factor that would have saved lives this past season would have been for people to wear their Personal Floatation Devices (PFD). Of 19 fatalities, 14 may have survived if they had worn their PFDs.
  • 4 persons died from blunt force trauma.

Hopefully, this year will be a safe year for Indiana and Illinois as people flock to lakeside fun spots.  However, it’s important to remember that there are safety laws in place, established under both Indiana statute and Illinois law, that apply in these situations.  Boating safety laws are important and if they are broken or disrespected and an accident with injuries occurs, then criminal arrests may be a consequence as well as a personal injury lawsuit for damages resulting from a good day gone bad.

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