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South Carolina's Surge in Boating Sales Led to a Rise in Boating Accidents

July 30, 2021

MYRTLE BEACH, SOUTH CAROLINA - A news article published on reports that law enforcement authorities believe South Carolina's boat sales surge in 2020 led to an increase in boating accidents on South Carolina waterways.

According to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR), Major Billy Downer, 2020 saw an increase in boating fatalities, and he is hoping to see a drop in fatalities this year.  He also stated that the SCDNR is continuing to see a significant number of boating traffic.  Increased boating traffic is what leads to a greater number of boat collisions.  Downer stated that the COVID pandemic caused boat retailers to run out of inventory once the COVID restrictions were lifted, and last year there were many new boaters on the state's lakes and rivers.  He said, "Any time you have an increase in boating traffic, you have an increase in accidents."

Downer also stated that the primary reason for boating accidents in South Carolina is "failing to maintain a proper lookout."  He also said that when a vessel operator is impaired, their reaction time is slowed. 

According to data from the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, there were over 140 boating accidents on South Carolina waterways. Horry County had the highest number of boating accidents in the state.  

The boating accident data for 2019 and 2020 was not publicly obtainable on the SCNDR's website. Reporters were told the station would need to file a Freedom of Information Act request to receive the boat accident information.  

Law enforcement in South Carolina focuses on boating safety each summer and increases boating patrols to find boat operators who are boating under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.  The South Carolina Department of Public Safety partners with the SCDNR each year for the state's "100 Deadliest Days" campaign. The campaign tries to decrease the number of fatalities on the state's roadways.  The campaign begins on Memorial Day and wraps up after Labor Day weekend.  Major Billy Downer also stated that the SCDNR also assigns a specialized safety action task force to certain areas where there is high boat traffic, specifically looking for boat operators who are driving impaired. 

The specialized safety action task force performs safety stops of boats with suspected drunken drivers.  By law, occupants on a boat may drink alcohol.  Drinking alcoholic beverages and operating a boat is also not against the law in South Carolina.  However, it is a violation of the law to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

According to Downer, alcohol affects people far greater due to the combination of heat, waves, and loud engine noise.  These factors can make the effects of an alcoholic drink three times more powerful than if consumed on land.  He stated that consuming two beers have the same effects as consuming six beers, and most people are unaware of that fact. 

The news report states that there have been a handful of boating accident injuries this summer in Horry County.  Many of those incidents occurred while the boat operators were accused of boating while under the influence of alcohol.  Downer is also urging boaters to reduce their speed and maintain safe distances from other boats.  He also recommends that boaters designate a sober driver if they plan on consuming alcohol.  It is recommended that the designated boat operator has boat operating experience and knows the water rules.

As this summer continues, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources' prevention and law enforcement efforts will continue as well. 

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Category: Accident News

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All information provided by our blogs is general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Consult a Montlick attorney for details about your unique situation.