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Remember these boat safety tips before hitting the water


A passion for the outdoors and coastal living means boating is a favourite hobby for millions of Aussies. Nearly 1 in 5 Australian households own their own boat, be it for fishing, water-skiing or sailing, according to the Boating Industry Association.

Consider these stats and boat safety tips before your next day out on the water.

Australian boat safety statistics

RLS encourages several prevention strategies to reduce boaties’ risk of serious injury or death.

Boat safety checks before launch

Before launching your vessel, run through safety checks to avoid an embarrassing call to the coast guard or worse.

Check that your batteries are working correctly and you’ve got enough fuel. Look for water leaks from common culprits like windows, deck fittings, as well as hatches or vents. Petrol leaks are a major danger, so check your fuel lines and never operate an engine or electronics if you smell fuel.

If your boat does have an engine, check the oil level as well as your spark plugs.

Finally, don’t forget about your trailer. Check your bearings are properly greased, your tires are inflated, and your winch isn’t frayed or malfunctioning. Make sure the weight of your boat and trailer is within your car’s recommended towing load.

Providing life jackets

A failure to wear a life jacket was the biggest contributing factor to drownings, according to the RLS, occurring in 92% of cases.

There should be enough lifejackets for as many people are on the boat or watercraft. These jackets should be worn, rather than stowed, while the boat is on the water. Emergencies can occur too fast to put on lifejackets that are below deck or in storage.

Make sure your lifejackets are recognised under Australian or International standards; 4758 and ISO 12402 respectively. Queensland’s Maritime Authority recommends children over 12 months old wear a life jacket, with those younger not travelling by boat unless necessary.

A failure to wear a lifejacket, or have one on board, could see you receive a fine depending on your state or territory’s laws. Consult your local maritime authority for specific laws in your area.

Piloting a boat while drunk or using drugs

Alcohol and illegal drugs were involved in 26% and 31% of drownings respectively, says the RLS.

Similar to drink or drug driving, piloting a boat while under the influence can cause symptoms including:

  • Drowsiness
  • Impaired vision and reaction time
  • Difficulty in using vessel controls
  • Careless or overconfidence

Piloting a boat while affected by these symptoms risks not only the skipper’s life, but their passengers’ as well.

If you’re involved in an accident, intoxication may reduce your ability to swim, or even stay afloat. If someone is near drowning or has drowned, intoxication reduces the effectiveness of CPR.

In addition to the safety concerns, piloting a boat while intoxicated is illegal in all Australian jurisdictions, and could see your boat license suspended. Wondering what the alcohol limit is when driving a boat? The legal blood alcohol limit for domestic boat skippers is the same as driving on an open licence — 0.05BAC.

Injured by negligence while boating? We're here to help

If you’ve been injured in a boating accident, and someone else is to blame, you may have a legal claim for compensation. If your injury means you can’t work, you may be eligible for benefits through your superannuation — we’ll examine all your options. 

Get in touch today with our compensation law experts for an obligation-free consultation to discuss your legal rights.

Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: December 18, 2020.

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