Spring weather has finally arrived in Hunterdon County and with that comes thoughts of outdoor activities. For some, that means hitting the water. Boating enthusiasts need to take special care this time of year because, while air temperatures may be getting warmer, water temperatures have yet to catch up, posing extra dangers. Staying safe in the cold water may take a little more than simple adherence to maritime laws.
Last week, a 54-year-old fisherman from New York drowned in the Round Valley Reservoir in Clinton Township. The man was not wearing a life jacket when his canoe capsized, yet he was abiding by New Jersey boating laws. (1)
According to the New Jersey State Police website for maritime safety, all boats must carry one personal flotation device for every person on board. These devices must be accessible and of an appropriate size for the intended wearer. Boats 16-feet or larger must also carry one throwable flotation device. (2)
State law does not require adults or teens to wear life jackets while in New Jersey waters, only that the jackets be readily available. The law is different for children 12 and younger – they and anyone riding a jet ski or waterskiing is required to wear a life preserver. (1)
National statistics show that cold water boating accidents are four times as likely to result in fatalities as warm water accidents. Last year in New Jersey there were two deaths in 10 cold-water boating accidents compared with five deaths in 118 warm-water accidents that same year. (3) Cold-water accidents are those which occur between November 1 and April 30. (1)
The reason behind the higher fatality rate is that cold water poses a dual threat: hypothermia and involuntary gasp reflex. The risk of hypothermia is greater in the water because a person’s body temperature will cool down 25 times faster in cold water than it would in cold air. Hypothermia can cause even strong swimmers to quickly lose their strength. (3)
Before hypothermia even sets in, however, an accident victim can suffer the effects of involuntary gasp reflex. When a person suddenly falls into cold water, he or she will exhale immediately and then gasp uncontrollably for air, whichcan lead to panic and, in turn, accidental drowning. (1)
Because of the additional dangers associated with cold-water boating, State police urge all boaters to take a step beyond the law and wear life vests while on New Jersey waters, particularly thisr. If you or anyone you know needs assistance with a boating accident, particularly in Hunterdon County, contact the experienced personal injury lawyers at Ragland Law Firm.