Two Boats Crash: Who Was at Fault? - 10/29/2008

A collision between two boats in Camden County Missouri resulted in two men being injured, one seriously. A 25’ Regal was hit by a 20’ Generation bass boat while both were operating on the Big Niangua River at the 3 mile mark. Here are the facts. The Regal, operated by a 39 year old man, was headed upstream, and was hit on the starboard side and sank in 18’ of water. The bass boat, operated by a 62 year old man whose injuries were listed as serious, was also a total loss.

You Be the Judge

Who’s at Fault?

Who better to ask that our resident boating instructor, Capt Steve:

Capt. Steve Says…

Well, that depends on who you ask. Undoubtedly, each operator will blame the other. But let’s look at it from a Rules of the Road perspective and count the rules broken, and see if we can determine who broke them even with our limited knowledge of the facts.

For starters, they both broke Rule 5; Look-out - Every vessel shall at all times maintain a proper look-out… to make a full appraisal of the situation and of the risk of collision.

How did they break that rule? If they collided, they couldn’t have been keeping a proper lookout. If they had, they could have avoided the collision, even if one of them wasn’t looking out.

And then there’s Rule 6; Safe Speed - Every vessel shall at all times proceed at a safe speed so that she can take proper and effective action to avoid collision and be stopped within a distance appropriate to the prevailing circumstances and conditions.

We don’t know the exact speed of either boat, but there’s the beauty of the rules. It says we have to maintain a “safe speed” but it doesn’t tell us what that speed is. It’s a sliding scale. What’s safe in a clear and sunny day is not the same safe on a foggy day or a congested waterway. And as both boats were totaled, we can conclude that someone (if not both) was not operating at a safe speed.

And how about Rule 7A; Every vessel shall use all available means appropriate to the prevailing circumstances and conditions to determine if risk of collision exists. If there is any doubt such risk shall be deemed to exist.

Ok, that includes looking out the window at another boat speeding towards you.

Or Rule 7Ai; Such risk shall be deemed to exist if the compass bearing of an approaching vessel does not appreciably change.

Rule 8 covers actions taken to avoid collision, which we won’t bother to list here but suffice it to say all of which were not adhered to by either vessel. We know this because again, they collided.

Now there will be other rules broken here, but we can’t be specific since we don’t know if they were meeting head on, crossing, or even in an overtaking situation. There are specific actions for each. But one final rule that we can be sure was broken by both is…

Rule 2B, due regard shall be had to all dangers of navigation and collision which may make a departure from these Rules necessary to avoid immediate danger. In other words, even if it’s the other guy’s job to avoid the collision, you have to take action if he isn’t. Nobody rides for free, especially in the blame game.

I say they are BOTH guilty.

What do you think?