Are The Rules Of The Road The Same On Water?

 In Maritime Law

boat in port - Stuart MilesWe are all familiar with the rules of the road on land. It’s that handbook you get in drivers education.  However, I am surprised to discover how many boaters are not familiar with the rules of the road on the water.  Just like all drivers on land must abide by the rules, the same holds true for boaters. 

The rules can be found in the Code of Federal Regulations (33 CFR 83-90).  They can also be found on the US Coast Guard website.  The original rules were enacted back in the 1800’s and have been updated continuously until December 24, 1981, when Congress enacted the Inland Navigation Rules. 

Similar to the rules on land, the rules on the water were designed so that marine traffic and the environment would be safe.  Here are some of the more important rules when it comes to protecting boat collisions and injuries:

  • Rule 5 – All vessels must at all times keep a proper lookout by sight and hearing.
  • Rule 6 – All vessels must at all times proceed at a safe speed so that it can take proper and effective action to avoid collisions. 
  • Rule 8 – All action taken to avoid a collision shall be in observance with good seamanship. 
  • Rule 9 – All vessels shall keep as near to the outer limit of its starboard side when in channels.
  • Rule 10 – This is a pretty long rule that explains basic traffic rules such as how to properly cross traffic lanes.
  • Rule 13 through 18 – Explain Rule 10 and all its subparts. 
  • Rule 19 – Clarifies proper conduct of vessels in restricted visibility.
  • Rule 20 through 30 – Explain what the different lights on vessels mean and where they must be placed. 

As an attorney who focuses my practice on maritime personal injury, I often find that defendants have violated the rules of the road.  Although a violation is not per se going to win your case, it can be used to prove the negligence of the offending party.  If you have been injured on the water, call the LaBovick Law Group today for a free consultation.  

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net by Stuart Miles

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