Hold the Phone: Distracted Boating vs. Distracted Driving

Lake Ontario

We have all seen them; people slow to notice a changed streetlight or swerving between lanes with their heads bowed, transfixed on the glowing light of their cell phone like a moth to flame. Texting, updating social media or yes, even talking on your cell phone is extremely dangerous and downright irresponsible to yourself, your passengers and everyone you encounter while on the road.

You rarely hear much about the dangers of texting and boating, however. So, is texting, talking and Tweeting as big a distraction once you hit the water? Let’s unpack the topic a bit.

Distracted Boating Facts and Factors

  • Boating requires focus at all times. Whether it is looking out for fellow boaters and obstructions or keeping track of the weather and your charted course, boaters are forced to already multitask at an equal or greater level as drivers.
  • Even the U.S. Coast Guard has been reportedly cracking down on crew member texting and talking while operating vessels after multiple crashes, thought to be caused by distracted boating.
  • In 2010, the National Transportation Safety Board began a movement to cut down on both distracted driving and distracted boating, especially within U.S. Coast Guard crews.
  • In 2014, Florida led the country in boating accidents and deaths, with distracted boating among the top causes of accidents.

Much like distracted driving, it is rather difficult to pinpoint all of the instances that were directly caused by cellphone use. Regardless, it only takes common sense to realize that operating a vessel or vehicle of any size can be dangerous if your full attention is not on the safety of yourself and those around you.

So, the next time you’re on the water, consider putting your phone on silent and taking advantage of the relaxation and fun that us boaters know and love.