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Accident Response Tips: Law Enforcement
Law Enforcement

Law enforcement plays a critical supporting role in recreational boating safety.

Each interaction between recreational boaters and law enforcement personnel – or between media reporters and law enforcement personnel – offers the possibility for educational outreach to the public.

Law enforcement officers or public information officers responding to the media relative to boating accidents should be trained to always answer three questions, whether they are “asked” or not.

  • Were life jackets available and/or worn and would it or did it make a difference regarding this accident?
  • Were alcohol or drugs a possible contributing factor regarding the investigated accident?
  • Were there possible violations of the rules of the road that are being investigated regarding this accident?

Keep these tips in mind as you respond to questions about a boating accident.

  • Know what can be discussed (stay focused on facts about the type of accident, causes and trends).
  • Do not share specifics of accident currently under investigation (details, active investigations, names, details about minor age victims).
  • Share safety and education information (facts about the type of accident, without blame).
  • Do not be afraid to say, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.” Do not say, “no comment.”
  • Answer questions, not statements (stick to the facts about the type of accident).
  • Answer with knowledge and facts (again, stick to the facts of the type of accident).

If you are not an appropriate media contact, please direct the reporter to the correct person in your organization.

  1. Operator inattention
  2. Operator inexperience
  3. Improper lookout
  4. Machinery failure
  5. Excessive speed
  6. Alcohol use
  7. Navigation rules violation
  8. Sharp turn
  9. Restricted vision
  10. Failure to vent

Source: U.S. Coast Guard Recreational Boating Statistics 2015