Boating accidents are numerically much less common than car crashes, but the “typical” boating accident can result in much more significant injuries than the “typical” car crash. Obviously, most people involved in car crashes will be using seat belts and/or shoulder harness, and in most cars will have the benefit of air bags and other modern safety equipment. In a boating accident, about the most that can be hoped for in terms of safety equipment is that victims will be wearing life jackets that may save them from drowning if they’re ejected from the boat.
A recent example was a boating accident on the Sacramento River near Red Bluff that resulted in injuries to seven people, three of whom had to be taken to a hospital, one of those with significant head injuries who was transported first by ambulance and then by helicopter to a trauma center. Other injuries included a broken arm and hip for the man who was driving the boat. The accident apparently happened when the boat crossed the large wake of another boat, causing the driver to lose control and crash into a bridge piling where Interstate-5 crosses the river.
Other factors leading to boating accidents include inexperienced operators — many boat owners will allow people to operate their boats whom they would never allow to operate their cars. And even experienced boat owners will have far less time at the tiller than experienced car owners have behind the wheel. Alcohol is also a significant factor in many major boating accidents due to its common presence during recreational boating. While operating a boat when intoxicated is certainly illegal in California — with potentially very significant penalties — there just isn’t the same level of law enforcement screening and observation on the waterways as there is on the roadways.