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Boating and drinking don't mix

Most Mississippians who spend a day boating on one of our many waterways don't anticipate that anything will go wrong -- and they certainly can't imagine a fatal accident. However, too often, a leisurely excursion on the water can turn deadly.

In 2015, according to the U.S. Coast Guard, there were over 4,100 recreational boating accidents throughout the country. These resulted in over 2,600 injuries and 626 fatalities.

Just over three-fourths of those fatalities were the result of drowning. Over 80 percent of those who drowned had been on a vessel less than 21 feet long.

There are a number of factors to blame for boating injuries and fatalities, including failure to wear a life jacket, the boat operator's lack of proper instruction and alcohol use.

While alcohol may seem like a natural accompaniment to a day of fishing or just sunbathing on the water, there are laws involving the consumption of alcohol on a boat. These vary by state, so if the waterway you're on takes you into another state, it's important to know the laws of the jurisdiction you're in.

In our state, operating a boat with 25 horsepower or more while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol is illegal. The same standard for being legally intoxicated that applies to driving a motor vehicle applies to operating a boat -- a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent or higher.

If a loved one has been killed in a boating accident and you believe that the operator of the boat was to blame, it's important to seek legal guidance regardless of any criminal investigation that may or may not be taking place. If the operator was at fault, if the boat malfunctioned or if your loved one was not provided with appropriate safety equipment, you may be able to seek compensation in order to help cover medical bills, burial costs, lost wages and other damages.

Source: American Boating Association, "Boating Fatality Facts," accessed Jan. 27, 2017

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