Boating in Louisiana offers a delightful experience on the state’s abundant waterways, from the Mississippi River to the picturesque lakes, bayous, and coastal areas. In New Orleans, this may include piloting your vessel on picturesque Lake Pontchartrain, the Intracoastal Waterway, Bayou St. John, or New Orleans Harbor. As with other motor vehicles, accidents can happen while boating. If you experience injuries due to a crash, call the New Orleans boat accident lawyers at Dudley DeBosier today.

Louisiana has established rules and regulations governing boating activities to ensure boaters’ safety and preserve its natural resources. Familiarizing yourself with the state’s boating guidelines will ensure a safe boating experience for yourself, your passengers, and other boaters in New Orleans.

Common Causes of Boating Accidents

Boating accidents can occur for several reasons in the Bayou State. According to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF), boating crashes have increased in the last few years. In 2020, there were 162 boating collisions, up from 135 in 2019.

Common causes of boating accidents in New Orleans include:

  • Operator inattention: This is a leading cause of boating accidents, ranking as one of the top five primary contributing factors in boating accidents in 2020 nationwide. Distractions, fatigue, and alcohol or drug use can cause operator inattention.
  • Speeding: Speeding is another major factor in boating accidents. Boaters that travel too fast have less time to react to hazards and are more likely to cause serious injuries or death.
  • Not wearing a life jacket: Not wearing a personal flotation device (PFD) like a life jacket is one of the most preventable causes of boating fatalities. Life jackets can save lives and are especially important for children and inexperienced boaters. The LDWF reported that out of 24 boating fatalities in 2020, 20 of the victims were not wearing PDFs when recovered.
  • Operating in dangerous conditions: Boating in hazardous conditions, such as at night or in bad weather, can increase the risk of an accident. Boaters should be aware of the weather conditions and the risks involved before they go out on the water. In 2020, 244 accidents, 42 deaths, and 81 injuries occurred due to a weather-related primary contributing factor.

Important Boating Laws for Boat Operators in Louisiana

Louisiana’s boating laws are designed to keep everyone on the water safe and to protect the environment. While The Handbook of Louisiana Boating Laws and Responsibilities contains all relevant boating regulations, some of the most important include the following:

  • Boating education: Louisiana law mandates that anyone born after January 1, 1984, should complete an approved boating education course before operating a motorboat over 10 horsepower. This requirement aims to enhance boaters’ knowledge of safe boating practices, navigation rules, and environmental conservation.
  • Personal flotation devices: Every Louisiana vessel must have a life jacket, specifically a U.S. Coast Guard-approved wearable PFD, for each person on board. Children age 16 and under must wear a PFD while the vessel is underway. PFDs are crucial for ensuring operator and passenger safety in an emergency.
  • Intoxicated operation: Operating a vessel under the influence of alcohol or drugs is strictly prohibited in Louisiana. The legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit for boating is 0.08%, the same as for operating a motor vehicle. Boaters must prioritize safety and avoid consuming alcohol while operating a vessel.
  • Speed limits: Louisiana imposes speed limits to maintain safety on waterways. Boaters must operate at a safe speed that does not create an excessive wake or endanger people, other vessels, or property. Check local regulations and look for posted signs regarding speed limits.
  • Navigation lights: All vessels must display proper navigation lights between sunset and sunrise and during periods of reduced visibility. Navigation lights ensure that other boaters can see and interpret your vessel’s movements, reducing the risk of collisions and ensuring safe navigation.
  • Vessel registration: All motorized vessels must be registered with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. Registration decals must be displayed correctly on the vessel as proof of compliance with state laws. Proper registration helps identify vessels and aids law enforcement in case of theft or emergencies.
  • Sound devices: Motorized vessels must have an efficient horn or whistle to signal intentions and alert other boaters. These sound devices are crucial for communication and promoting safe navigation on the water.
  • Fire extinguishers: Vessels with inboard engines, enclosed fuel compartments, or closed living spaces must carry a U.S. Coast Guard-approved fire extinguisher. This requirement ensures boaters are prepared to handle fire emergencies and protect themselves and their vessels from potential hazards.

Contact a Professional Lawyer if an Accident Occurs

As a boating enthusiast, it is crucial to understand and comply with the important boating laws in Louisiana to ensure the safety of yourself, your passengers, and others on New Orleans and that state’s waterways.

However, boating accidents can happen, even when you do everything right. If you or someone you know has been involved in a boating accident in Louisiana, speak with our New Orleans boating accident attorneys at Dudley DeBosier.

We will assess your case, explain your rights, and guide you through the claims process after a boating crash so you can know your next steps. Schedule a free consultation today with our offices in New Orleans to get started on your case.

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