How Do I Stay Safe When Boating in Charleston?

Posted in Boat Accidents on April 30, 2018

Charleston has a rich maritime history, dating back more than 400 hundred years and is home to more boats than any other coastal city in South Carolina. Unfortunately, more boat traffic means more boating accidents, and fatal boating accidents have been on the rise across the state:

  • In 2016 the US Coast Guard reported 4,463 accidents in South Carolina, resulting in 701 deaths, 2,903 injuries and $49 million in property damage.
  • The fatality rate increased 11.3% from 2015
  • The number of accidents increased 7.3%, the number of deaths increased 12%, and the number of injuries increased by 11.1%.

The attorneys at HawkLaw are here to protect your rights if you have incurred injury or harm from a boating accident.

How to Stay Safe Boating in Charleston

Know the requirements for operating a watercraft in South Carolina, including a current title and registration for the craft, life jackets on board, flares, a working horn, a kill switch installed on the vessel, and a designated lighting system.

#1. Take a Boater Education Course

The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources offers free one-day courses in boater safety. Completion of the course will not only keep you safer on the waterways, it may also make you eligible for a discount on certain watercraft purchases.

#2. Learn to swim

If you plan on being in the open water, it’s a good idea to learn how to swim. The Charleston Parks and Recreation Department offers courses to the public year round, and even have scholarship programs – individuals who qualify may be eligible for free lessons. Make sure any guests in your boat know how to swim, and have life jackets available for everyone on board.

#3. Be Weather-Wise

Check local weather reports before hitting the water. If forecasters are predicting rough wind, poor visibility or heavy winds, consider shelving your plans. If you’re on the water and a storm approaches, or the waters get choppy, it may be best to return to shore.

#4. File a “Float Plan”

Before heading out into one of Charleston’s waterways, it’s a good idea to fill out and submit a detailed float plan to your marina of origin, or at minimum to one of your friends or family members staying behind. You’ll want to provide basic demographic information as well as how long, and where you plan to boat. You can use this Float Plan Template provided by the US Coast Guard as a reference.

#5. Drive Defensively

Always be on the lookout for other boaters, swimmers, marine life, and obstacles. Be sure to think ahead and expect the unexpected on the open waters, just like you would on the highway.

#6. Stay Sober

Boating under the influence (BUI) in South Carolina carries some of the same penalties as a DUI because it can be just as deadly. In 2016, BUI was attributed to more than 100 boating deaths and more than 260 injuries. Don’t risk your life or the lives of others – stay sober on the waterways.

What If My Boat Capsizes?

The No. 1 rule to follow if your boat capsizes is to stay with the boat – it’s a bigger target for rescuers to spot. The following steps will also help:

  • If don’t have a life jacket on, try to find one and put it on.
  • Be sure passengers and crew are accounted for.
  • Try to get back on your boat if it is still afloat. It’s also important to keep your body as dry as possible, especially in a cold-water environment.

Report Dangerous Boating

Stay clear of anyone you see operating a watercraft in a reckless manner and report them to the Department of Natural Resources dispatch line at (800) 922-5431.