How Illinois boaters can avoid overboard accidents

For many Illinois boaters, time on the water can be fun. But even enjoyment should never eclipse the need to pay attention to safety issues. Even when the weather is good and the surface of a lake or river may be serene, danger is always present. In fact, most boating fatalities occur during the day and when weather is clear. When late fall and winter settle in, boating can become even more dangerous.

Many boating deaths happen when someone falls overboard and drowns. For this reason, it is wise to require everyone on the vessel to wear a life jacket at all times. Passengers should never be allowed to sit in any area on the boat that is not designed for sitting, especially in small boats. Small vessels usually have kill switches in their ignitions that can attach to clothes, life jackets or extremities. When a person falls overboard, the cord pulls the kill switch to stop the boat. These should always be used.

Boat operators must inform passengers before accelerating, slowing down or abruptly stopping to prevent people from accidentally falling overboard. If someone does fall into the water, reduce speed and have someone spot the victim by continuously pointing at their location. Throw a life ring or seat cushion to the victim for flotation. Then stop the vessel’s motor and lift the victim over the boat’s transom. If a boat capsizes, the boat itself is far more visible than a victim’s head, so someone in the water should signal for help by using visual distress signals and whistles.

Almost 90 percent of boating fatalities result from operators who have never been formally trained to operate their vessels. Chicago personal injury professionals know that when an accident happens, both a boat’s owner and operator can be held legally responsible.

Source:, “Boating: Person(s) overboard Can Take Fun Out of Trip,” Bill Jefferson, Dec. 14, 2013