Memorial Day Weekend Notorious for Boating Accidents

Memorial Day is officially a holiday designated for the remembrance of those who gave their lives in service to our nation.  For many Americans, though, it is celebrated more as a kick-off to the summer.   Because Oklahoma boasts more man-made lakes than any other state in the nation, many Oklahomans enjoy Memorial Day weekend on state lakes.  Unfortunately, the weekend can quickly turn to tragedy due to accidental drownings and boating accidents.  If you or someone you love is affected by a boating accident, an Oklahoma personal injury lawyer can be a valuable resource for getting the compensation you deserve for your injuries or loss. According to statistics from the National Safe Boating Council funded by the United States Coast Guard, the year 2008 saw 4,789 boat accidents resulting in 3,331 injuries and 709 deaths.  The same report shows that in Oklahoma alone, there were 54 boating accidents--10 of those fatal.  Oklahoma boat accidents in 2008 resulted in 37 injuries and 11 deaths. Just as automobile accidents are almost always preventable, boating accidents are generally avoidable if boaters, skiers, and drivers of personal watercraft operate their boats and watercraft responsibly.  Leading causes of Oklahoma boating accidents include:

  • Alcohol
  • Speeding
  • Operator inexperience
  • Failure to adhere to boating regulations
After a number of boat accident fatalities resulting from alcohol-involved collisions, Oklahoma strengthened its boating DUI laws.  Prior to 2011, boat operators were not considered to be under the influence of alcohol unless they had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.10%--higher than the state's limit of 0.08% for DUI on Oklahoma roads.  However, with the passage of SB 324, the legal limit for DUI in boats has been reduced to match the limit for driving an automobile under the influence of alcohol. Boat accident injuries can be particularly catastrophic or deadly.  Common boating accident injuries include:
  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Spinal Cord Injury
  • Broken Bones
  • Lacerations
  • Amputation
  • Drowning
Just last week, a 19-year old-man drowned and his 19-year-old friend was injured in a boating accident on Kaw Lake in Ponca City.  According to reports, Tyler Woolley was riding a tube being pulled by a boat when the tube flipped and Woolley went underwater and did not resurface.  His friend, James Goodman, jumped into the water to try to find him, but suffered a severe cut to his leg when it was caught in the boat's propeller.  Goodman was airlifted to St. Francis hospital in Tulsa but has since been released.  Woolley's body remained missing for nearly a week. Boats and personal watercraft are popular forms of recreation in Oklahoma.  However, when one or more people fail to act safely and responsibly on the water, tragedy can occur.