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Mark Bello
Mark Bello
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BADD Deters Drunk Boaters

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A wrongful death lawsuit contends a boat owner was negligent and reckless causing the drowning death of a 19-year-old girl in a 2010 Lake Erie boating accident. The teen was attending a drinking party aboard a 48-foot sporting yacht when she decided to go for a swim with a male passenger. Suddenly, a storm front moved in and the young woman and her male companion were battling the wind and waves as the unanchored boat drifted off. The suit contends that the driver of the boat became so intoxicated that he could not reasonably operate the yacht, and he failed to stock the vessel with enough flotation devices.

We hear a lot about drunk driving accidents, but how common are drunk boating accidents? Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents listed as the leading factor in 16% of the deaths. Although steering a boat requires the same concentration and coordination as driving a vehicle, most operators are less experienced driving on the water than on our roadways. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, the average American drives almost daily averaging 13,476 miles per year compared to only 110 hours annually on our waterways. In 2011, the US Coast Guard Boating Association (USCGB) counted 4588 accidents that involved 758 deaths as a result of recreational boating accidents. Seventy percent of all fatal boating accident victims drowned, and of those, eighty-four percent were reported as not wearing a life jacket. Researchers also found that a form of fatigue, known as “boater’s hypnosis,” can reduce reaction time; the US Coast Guard found that an operator who has two beers and four hours of exposure to these elements can be as dangerous as a driver who has consumed six beers.

One organization fighting to improve boating laws is Boaters Against Drunk Driving (BADD), an anti-drinking and boating advocacy group based in Battle Creek, Michigan. BADD was founded in 1989 by Jim Carlin, a former law enforcement officer and avid boater, after he witnessed the serious ramifications of intoxicated boaters. The group has been dedicated to promoting the safe, sober, and responsible boating through boating safety course and always wearing a life jacket while on the waterways. Due to the efforts of the organization, about 40 states have implemented a 0.08% blood alcohol level maximum for their waterways, the same for motor vehicle drivers. BADD recently implemented a project called the "Lighthouse of Law" in which the organization monitors hundreds of cases of boating under the influence, many of which involve the death of one or more victims. BADD plans to follow these cases through the judicial process and verify the progress and dispositions of the cases for the conviction and sentencing of the offenders. After a case is concluded, BADD will publish the results with the hopes of showing the boating community and the general public that boating under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a very serious crime with real consequences.

Lawsuit Financial supports BADD in its mission to make boaters aware that the risks of drinking and boating are just as great as the risk of drinking and driving a vehicle. And, remember to wear a life jacket.

Mark Bello has thirty-five years experience as a trial lawyer and thirteen years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide legal finance cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed by a plaintiff involved in pending, personal injury, litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Member of Public Justice and Public Citizen, Business Associate of the Florida, Mississippi, Connecticut, Texas, and Tennessee Associations for Justice, and Consumers Attorneys of California, member of the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.