Safety first on the water

Published 7:12 pm Thursday, March 3, 2016

A few weeks of winter remain, but it is not too early to begin preparing for the boating season in the region’s waterways.

Proper preparation is key to helping reduce the number of boating accidents across the state. During 2014 (the latest year for which boating-accident statistics are available), there were 23 fatal accidents out of 130 accidents reported, according to the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. Those 23 fatal accidents resulted in 27 fatalities. Alcohol consumption was a factor in three of those accidents, according to WRC data. In those 130 accidents, 176 vessels were involved, with 93 injured people requiring medical attention. In 2011, there were 25 fatal accidents among the 142 accidents reported.

In 2014, one nonfatal accident occurred on the Pungo River, according to the WRC report. No reported accidents occurred on the Pamlico River or the Pamlico Sound in 2014, according to the report, but one nonfatal accident occurred on the Tar River. Those might not be alarming statistics to some, but any accident on the water is one too many.

The No. 1 cause of fatal accidents is “other,” according to the report, followed by operator inexperience. “Other” includes people falling or jumping overboard. The leading cause of nonfatal accidents is inattentive boat operators, followed by operator inexperience.

Sadly, personal flotation devices were not used in 19 of the 23 fatal accidents in 2014, according to WRC statistics. In seven of those fatal accidents, no personal flotation devices were on the boats involved in those accidents.

Having the proper safety equipment, especially personal flotation devices, will help save lives. Knowledge of boating laws and boating experience will help save lives. The Wildlife Resources Commission, the Coast Guard and boating groups such as the Pamlico Sail & Power Squadron offer courses in boating safety and conduct boating-safety inspections. Take advantage of their knowledge and resources to make your upcoming boating season is a safe one.

For more boating safety and education opportunities, visit or http://www.