May 10, 2018

Top 8 Boating Accident Causes in Wisconsin for 2017

Boating Accident

As the weather gets warmer, Wisconsinites are gearing up to get back on the water, whether that is by visiting a beach, swimming in a lake, or going boating. Roughly 2.5 million Wisconsin residents will participate in these types of activities every year. In 2017, there were over 620,000 registered boats in Wisconsin. The vast majority of those are motorized vessels.

In 2017 alone, Wisconsin saw 106 boating incidents that caused at least 79 injuries and 25 fatal boating accidents. That means that 2017 had four deaths per 100,000 registered boats. Unfortunately, this is a significant uptick in the number of fatalities. The ten-year trend indicated 2.81 deaths per year. Drowning is by far the most common reason that death occurs, but hitting objects also happens frequently.

Eight Reasons for Boating Accidents

Causes of boating accidents vary. Once boating drivers and passengers realize the causes of boating incidents, they can be better prepared to address them. Below are Wisconsin’s “Top Eight” reasons boating accidents occurred in 2017.

Operator Inexperience

When drivers are not familiar with their vessels, that can cause serious problems. Knowing how to control the boat at all times is essential to travel safely in a boat. Interestingly, the age groups that created the highest numbers of accidents were between 20 and 29 as well as 50 and 59.

Alcohol Use

Boating accidents due to alcohol use spiked in 2017. In fact, 2017 saw a 12-year high in the number of incidents that involved alcohol. It was a contributing factor in nearly one-fourth of all 2017 boating accidents.

Operator Inattention

Distraction is a serious issue no matter what type of vehicle you are driving—from a car to a boat. Inattention in a vessel could result in failing to avoid obstacles, other ships, or even the shoreline.

Equipment/Machinery Problems

Faulty motors or other equipment can cause a boat crash as well. While equipment problems rank in the top five for incidents, they actually are far less likely to actually cause injuries.


When drivers get out on the open water, they may become adventurous. They travel at high speeds, engage in unsafe turning or other maneuvers, and get uncomfortably close to others or objects. These types of actions can cause the boat to capsize or hit an object or person.

Hazardous Waters

Traveling through treacherous waters or going out in bad weather is never a good idea. While there are situations where water becomes dangerous, a little research or know-how can go a long way to determine whether waters are safe.


It is always a good idea to head back to shore at the first sign of a storm or high winds. Severe weather can make water choppy, which, in turn, makes boats harder to control safely.

Improper Lookout

Improper lookout occurs when a boat driver is not watching for other boats. Because of their inattention, they do not react fast enough to avoid an accident. The concept is similar to distraction, but it is specifically applied in the context of other boats.

Gingras, Thomsen & Wachs, LLP

Accidents can happen when you least expect them. One minute you are enjoying a sunny day out on the boat with friends and family, and the next minute your life could be changed forever. The personal injury attorneys at GCW will fight to help you get what you deserve after a boating accident if the accident occurred because of carelessness or a violation of safe boating rules. Stay safe on the water this summer!

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