The recent crash of the Costa Concordia cruise ship stunned even veteran cruise travelers and boating enthusiasts. Disturbing pictures of the listing ship are often accompanied by the rhetorical tagline: “Too big to sink?” In fact, the ship’s mammoth size and relative newness made the crash all the more shocking. Launched in 2006, the Costa Concordia was able to comfortably carry over 4,000 passengers and crew, was in excellent shape, and outfitted with modern sailing and safety technology. Despite having, in theory, everything needed to keep her passengers safe, this mammoth ship was undone by the same flaw that often causes such accidents: human error.
Boating and cruising serve many purposes. For some it’s recreation. For others it’s a mode of transportation. Yet, it’s also a large industry, including fishing, freight and tourism. The one thing all of these aspects of sailing have in common is that they are managed by people. No passenger boat or ship, regardless of size or technology, can operate without humans. And as proven by the Costa Concordia accident, in which the supposedly experienced captain ran her against rocks during an unauthorized maneuver towards the coastline, no boat or ship is unsinkable. However, while the Costa Concordia grabbed headlines, accidents involving much smaller vessels occur so frequently as to be considered common. The reality is that far more people are injured or killed every year in personal craft accidents than while cruising in large ships.
Approximately 700 people are killed annually in the United States alone in recreational boating accidents. While the Costa Concordia event may give people pause about cruising safety, sadly too few will realize that they truly should focus on improving their safety on local waterways. Statistics show that of those 700 accidents a year, about 90% occurred in vessels driven by someone who has never taken a safety course in boating. So what can you do to improve your boating safety?
Wear your life vest always, no matter how well you swim. First, a collision (even a minor one) or fall overboard can cause an injury or loss of consciousness that prevents you from staying afloat. Second, even in warm weather water temperatures can be cool enough to quickly cause you to go into shock and lose the ability to swim. The Coast Guard estimates that approximately 90% of drowning victims were not wearing a flotation device.
Never get into a boat driven by an inexperienced driver. Though many states do not require licensing to drive a boat, do not assume boating is therefore safer than driving a car. Make sure the driver has experience with a boat that same size and type as well as familiarity with the area. They should be aware of underwater hazards like sandbars or rocks, wave and current conditions, weather conditions, and any local regulations.
Make sure the boat you are riding in is equipped with the proper safety equipment. You should have enough life vests for everyone on board, proper lighting, a horn, a radio to call for assistance (do not rely on cell phones), ropes, a first aid kit, water, and blankets.
Unfortunately, a common contributing cause of boat accidents is alcohol. Too often even people who would never drive a car while intoxicated are less concerned when driving a boat while under the influence. But just like on land, make sure you have a designated driver.
While accidents happen, incidents like the Costa Concordia remind us that too often they are the result of human error or neglect. When this happens, a victims pain and suffering is made all the worse by the realization that it didn’t have to happen. If you have been injured in an accident, contact an Illinois personal injury lawyer who can assist you.
About the Author: Brooke Haley is a Marketing Associate at Millon & Peskin, Chicago workers compensation attorney that practice in the areas of Workers’ Compensation and Personal Injury. Millon & Peskin is a General Civil Litigation Practice with the goal of representing the interests of injured workers, throughout all applicable Courts in the State of Illinois. For more information about Illinois workers compensation lawyer,please visit www.millonpeskin.com.