Memorial Day is fast approaching! According to the National Safety Council, for the past 6 years, Memorial Day weekend has averaged an 11.5% increase in auto accident fatalities compared to other non-holiday weekends. This Memorial Day, the Council expects to see 420 fatalities and 42,000 "medically consulted" injuries caused by car crashes nationwide.
In addition, Memorial Day often signifies the unofficial start of the boating season here in Missouri, and with boating season comes boating accidents. Although these accidents don't make the news as often as auto or semi-truck collisions, they are quite prevalent and can have equally tragic results.
On Jan. 24, 2011, the Department of Public Safety announced the merger of the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the Missouri State Water Patrol. "The result is a single, statewide law enforcement agency that will seamlessly patrol the state's roadways and waterways" said Governor Nixon at the time. Indeed, last June, the Water Patrol Division conducted sobriety checkpoints on Smithville Lake, and Missourians can expect to see similar initiatives in effect this summer.
The Water Patrol Division is commanded by Major Tommy Roam, a 30-year veteran of the Water Patrol. Last summer, Major Roam announced checkpoints to increase the boating public's awareness of the potential hazards of operating a boat while intoxicated. The Water Patrol seeks to reduce boating accidents, deter impaired boating, and remove intoxicated boaters from Missouri's waterways--in other words-- to vigorously enforce Missouri's boating laws.
The U.S. Forest Service estimates that 82 million people participated in boating in 2010. Coast Guard statistics indicate that 736 people died in drowning accidents that same year. Unfortunately, alcohol consumption is a factor in around 35 to 50% of all drowning and boating accidents.
Our personal injury attorneys want to stress the importance of boating safety this year. While you're on the lake, always wear your life jacket: it is equally as important as wearing a safety belt in your vehicle. Approximately 90% of the reported fatalities in 2010 were people who neglected to wear life jackets.
Missouri law requires a Coast Guard approved life jacket to be available for each person on a watercraft--but it doesn't require people to actually wear them. The exception is children aged seven or younger, who must wear an appropriately sized life jacket at all times.
Please remember: boating under the influence can lead to a drowning accident. It is equally as dangerous as driving under the influence! In fact, boat operators tend to become impaired more quickly than car drivers, drink for drink. The combination of motion, engine noise, sun, wind and spray can actually accelerate intoxication, causing coordination, judgment and reaction time to decline even faster than they do on land.
Operating a boat while intoxicated is a felony offense, which carries a $5,000 fine and 1-5 years in jail if convicted. Please drink responsibly out on the water, and stay safe this Memorial Day weekend.
The car accident lawyers at Aaron Sachs & Associates, P.C. represent injury victims in Joplin, Webb City, Carthage, Sarcoxie, and throughout Missouri. To schedule an appointment for a free initial consultation, please call 1-888-777-AUTO, or visit our website.Attorney meetings by appointment only