While most people are generally familiar with the rules of the road, fewer are familiar with the rules of the water. Boating rules provide general safety guidelines and boat operators’ responsibilities. This helpful guide to Mississippi’s boating laws will give you a better idea of who may be at fault in a boating accident and how you can avoid a potentially serious collision in the first place.
If you’ve been injured in a boat accident and someone else is to blame, the personal injury attorneys at Derek L. Hall, PC can investigate the incident and determine whether you could be owed compensation. Contact us today for a free consultation with an experienced boat accident lawyer in Jackson, MS.
Mississippi Boating Laws
While boating is a popular pastime, Mississippi waterways are not monitored the same way as roads. That’s why all boaters must follow state guidelines and Mississippi boating laws. Before you can launch a craft onto the water, you must have a valid Mississippi Certificate Number and visible validation decals.
Individuals born after 1980 are not legally allowed to operate a boat unless they pass a boating education course approved by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks (MDWFP). Safety courses are offered at locations across the state. Listings can be found on the MDWFP website.
Once an individual passes an approved course, they must carry their certificate onboard their vessel whenever it is in operation. Children under the age of 12 must be with a certified individual at least 21 years of age while onboard a boat. Boat operators also cannot drive a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Mississippi requires that all boats be outfitted with U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation devices (PFDs), such as life jackets. One wearable PFD must be on board for every person on the boat. Minors 12 and under must be wearing a life jacket when the craft is in operation. Depending on their size, vessels may also be required to have safety features such as the following:
- A fire extinguisher
- An efficient sound device, such as a horn or bell
- Flares or other visual distress signals
What Causes Most Boat Collisions?
Many of the same causes of car accidents also lead to boating accidents, such as carelessness, inattention, and other forms of negligence. More specifically, some of the main causes of boating accidents in Mississippi include the following:
- Operating a boat while intoxicated
- Operating a boat too fast for conditions
- Distracted boating
- Running out of fuel
- Bad weather
- Poor visibility or operating a boat at night
Many people operate their boats purely for recreation rather than as part of their jobs or transportation. However, that doesn’t mean boat operators can throw all caution to the wind when on the water. Paying attention to your surroundings and avoiding distractions is crucial for preventing the most common causes of boating accidents.
Who Is Responsible for Avoiding a Collision Between Boats?
All boat operators are responsible for maintaining control of their vessels and avoiding collisions with objects and other boats. It is every captain’s responsibility to operate their boat safely and responsibly. Boat operators should always be aware of their surroundings and have their full attention on driving the boat. Ultimately, responsibility for avoiding a collision between boats falls on the people operating them.
When meeting head-on, boats should pass each other on the port (left) side. If a boat is overtaking another vessel, the passing boat should offer a blast of their horn if passing on the starboard (right) side and two blasts on the port side. The boat being passed should stay on its current course and speed. The right of way should be yielded to the less maneuverable vessel.
How Can a Boat Operator Avoid Collisions?
Every person who drives a boat must know how to prevent boating accidents. The following tips can help boat operators avoid collisions with other vessels on the water:
- Follow the rules of navigation
- Pay close attention to your navigational aids
- Maintain a clear line of sight
- Appoint a trusted passenger as a lookout
- Always operate your craft at safe speeds
- Look in all directions before making a turn or changing course
- Watch for other craft and floating debris
- Pay attention to your local weather forecast before hitting the water
- Avoid alcohol while operating your boat
- Stay in the middle of marked channels
- Keep a safe distance when approaching other vessels
- Use caution around vessels towing skiers or other watercraft
- Take a boating safety course regularly
As a boat operator, it is up to you to stay alert and watch for signs of potential danger. If a negligent boater hits your vessel, contact law enforcement and report the collision. Then, reach out to a Mississippi boat accident attorney to review your legal options.
Talk to an Experienced Boating Accident Lawyer in Jackson, MS for Help
If you are involved in a boating accident in Mississippi someone else caused, get in touch with a Mississippi boating accident attorney from Derek L. Hall, PC as soon as possible. You could be owed compensation for any injuries, medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering you’ve experienced. But you shouldn’t have to go through the personal injury claim process alone. We offer free initial consultations and work on a contingency fee basis. There’s no risk in learning how we can help.