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Navigating a Boating Tragedy

21st September 2011
By Solomon Neuhardt in Personal Injury
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Boating is a relaxing pastime and a sport that brings pleasure to millions of people around the world. However, boating can become dangerous sometimes. An inexperienced or careless boater can cause mishaps, collisions, and even fatal accidents. Boating safety education and a cautious attitude can go a long way toward avoiding unnecessary tragedy.

Statistics on Boating Accidents

There are around 12,700,000 recreational boats registered in the United States and, according to the National Recreational Boating Safety Survey of 2009, there were around:
- 4,789 boating accidents
- 709 fatalities
- 3,331 injured needing serious medical treatment
Ninety percent of fatalities involved boats where the driver had never taken a boating safety class. Property loss was estimated at over $54 million.

Montanaís Boating Laws

The beautiful state of Montana has about 2,673 ponds, lakes, reservoirs and other water bodies. A large number of these are frequented by residents and tourists for recreational activities.

The minimum federal requirements are:

- Rented boats and watercraft: A person must be 18 years and above to rent a motorboat. Children below 18 years of age should not operate a motorboat that is more than ten horsepower, unescorted.
- Motorboat operator certificate needed: The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks conducts boat safety education programs and provides students certificates at the successful completion of the course. Boating classes are also held by the US Coast Guard Auxiliary.
- Registration of boats: The registration of a vessel can be done after you obtain a certificate of ownership (title). After your vessel has been registered by the authorities, the certificate number should be kept aboard at all times.
- Every passenger on board a watercraft must wear PFDs or personal flotation devices.
- Equipment requirement: A person should ideally use (depending upon the size of boat) compass, charts, marine VHF radio, fixed fire extinguishing system, paddle, oar, flashlight, searchlight, binocular, first aid kit, bailers and other marine hardware.

Any person found violating the Montana boating laws can be fined up to $500 and/or sentenced up to six months in jail.

How to Avoid Boating Accidents

While boating, it is advisable to not:
- Consume alcohol or any other psychotropic substance
- Discharge or throw matter of any kind (including trash, garbage and oil)
- Drive recklessly harming nature or wildlife
- Resort to reckless operation of the boat

In case of a major boating accident in US waters, you should immediately call for help, if possible. The accident should be reported to the local sheriff or game warden without delay. If you or one of your companions has suffered any kind of injury or mental agony, or you know someone who has died in a boating accident, contact an experienced marine attorney immediately. If the injury or death is due to another personís negligence, the victim or his immediate family may be able to receive compensation and/or punitive damages.
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