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Statistically speaking, driving a boat is safer than driving a car. Boat operators are 30 times less likely to die in a boating accident than drivers are to die in a car crash in any given year. However, if you examine the numbers closely, there is more to consider.

Recreational watercraft accidents, such as those involving jet skis, speedboats, sailboats, and small motorboats, are actually more common than accidents with commercial vehicles. Many of these accidents result from human error, with a significant portion involving alcohol. And an accident doesn’t have to be fatal to cause severe injuries.

Although boats are popular investments for work and leisure, people should take precautions before driving one. From boating laws within Louisiana to the most common causes of accidents, boat owners and users must consider numerous factors to avoid unnecessary harm.

Requirements for Driving a Boat in Louisiana

To operate a personal watercraft, you must be at least 16 years old. It is against the law for someone 16 years of age or younger to drive one. It is also illegal for a boat owner or a boat rental company to allow someone who they know to be underage to drive a watercraft.

Anyone born after January 1st, 1984 may legally operate a motorboat over 10 horsepower (HP) or personal watercraft only if they’ve passed an approved boater education course or if they are with someone over 18 years old who has already passed a Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries (LDWF) approved boater education course. The minimum age for taking an LDWF course is 10. You don’t need to be a resident of Louisiana to take a class.

When driving a watercraft, you must always carry the certificate of course completion or a relevant Louisiana Boater Card in case you encounter authorities while boating. Licensed U.S. Coast Guard captains don’t need to take these courses to drive a boat in Louisiana.

Essential Laws for Driving a Boat in Louisiana

The official Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries website contains detailed information on boating laws. While these rules and regulations are covered in a boater course, it is essential to familiarize yourself with some of the most important laws.

Failure to comply with the basic rules can result in a $300 fine, imprisonment for up to 30 days, or both. Here are some of the considerations that are bound by law:

  • Positioning etiquette, aka how to drive a boat when there are other boaters in the area. For example, knowing passing distances, rules for overtaking, right of way, and how to approach the shore or a harbor.
  • Your personal watercraft operational responsibility. For example, it is illegal for boaters to weave personal crafts through busy waterways where there are other boats or swimmers.
  • It is illegal to drive a boat, waterski, surfboard, or other watercraft device while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs. Boaters (or other water vehicle users) with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or higher are subject to the same punishment as intoxicated road users.
  • Boaters may not overload their vehicle by carrying too many passengers or too much cargo. As well as the manufacturer’s carrying capacity guidelines, boaters should also consider weather conditions.
  • It is illegal to drive a watercraft in a restricted area, as dictated by Louisiana law, buoys, or other indicative signals (e.g., a sign for a swimming only area).
  • There are strict laws concerning operating a watercraft for waterskiing. At least two competent and qualified boaters must drive the boat and assist with the skiing equipment.

Common Causes of Boat Accidents

Although weather conditions and equipment quality can have an influence, most boating accidents in Louisiana are caused by human error. Drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs are a common cause. Inexperience and lapses in concentration may also lead to an accident. Without adequate training, drivers may not know how to react if an unexpected incident occurs, causing injuries to themselves, their passengers, and other boaters.

The U.S. Coastguard reported that in 2019, alcohol accounted for around 23% of all boating fatalities. Of those who died because of boat accidents, 79% drowned, with most of them not wearing life jackets.

If you’ve been involved in an incident on the water, it’s essential that you get in touch with leading Louisiana boat accident lawyers at our law firm immediately to ensure you get compensation from the negligent boater for your medical expenses.

Dudley DeBosier Injury Lawyers

At Dudley DeBosier, we help Louisiana boating injury victims receive compensation for accidents that weren’t their fault. We understand the life-altering consequences of such accidents and work to ensure you are compensated for past and future medical expenses, lost wages, pain, mental anguish, and other consequences of your accident.

If you don’t receive compensation, we offer a no-fee guarantee. For more information on the services we offer, contact us today to arrange a free consultation.

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