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Other Safety Concerns

Boating Accident Reporting

As the operator of a vessel, you are required by law to file a formal, written report of your boating accident with the DWR under certain circumstances.

To inform Law Enforcement about an accident that has just occurred, please call your county or city law enforcement group, sheriff’s office, Conservation Police Officer, or Department dispatcher (800-237-5712) or 911.

When a Report is Required

A formal, written report must be filed with DWR when there is:

  • Damage over $2000 by or to the vessel or its equipment;
  • Injury (requiring medical help beyond First Aid) or loss of life; and/or
  • Disappearance of any person from a vessel.

When a person dies or disappears as a result of an occurrence that involves a vessel or its equipment, the operator is required by law to notify the DWR in Henrico, Virginia, or the most immediately available Department Conservation Police Officer without delay and by the quickest means possible.

Time Frame for Reporting

Written reports must be filed within the following time frames from the boating accident:

  • 48 hours, if a person dies within 24 hours of the accident;
  • 48 hours if a person involved is injured and cannot perform usual activities;
  • 48 hours if a person disappears from a vessel;
  • 10 days if an earlier report is not required but becomes necessary; and/or
  • 10 days if the boat or property damage is in excess of $2000 or total boat loss.

How to File a Written Accident Report

Boating Accident Report forms can also be obtained from local law enforcement authorities, Department Conservation Police Officers, the DWR website, and all Department offices. You may submit the completed forms in person or send them to the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, Boating Accident, 7870 Villa Park Dr., Suite 400, P.O. Box 90778, Henrico, VA 23228.

The boat operator or owner usually completes the form unless she/he is physically unable to do so.

Duty to Stop and Render Assistance

It is the duty of every operator involved in a collision to stop and offer assistance. Operators involved in a collision, who knowingly fail to comply with this law when the collision or accident results in serious bodily injury to, or the death of, any person, shall be guilty of a Class 6 Felony. When a collision or accident results in only property damage, the operator who does not comply with this law shall be guilty of a Class 1 Misdemeanor.

All vessels must operate at minimum speed necessary to maintain a steerage and headway (no wake speed) within 500 yards of the U.S. naval vessel and proceed as directed by the Commanding Officer or the official patrol. Violations of the Naval Vessel Protection Zone are a felony offense, punishable by up to 6 years in prison and/or up to $250,000 in fines.

No vessel or person is allowed within 100 yards of a U.S. naval vessel greater than 100 feet in length. Due to Little Creek Channel’s width of 150 yards, all vessels must exit Little Creek Channel when a U.S. naval vessel is approaching.

If you have questions about the Navel Vessel Protection Zone, contact Coast Guard Sector Hampton Roads Waterways Management Division at 757-668-5580.

America’s Waterway Watch

America’s coasts, rivers, bridges, tunnels, ports, ships, military bases, and waterside industries may be the terrorists’ next targets.

If you see outwardly suspicious activity, or even behavior that makes you uneasy, please report it. Here are things to look for:

  • Unattended vessels or vehicles in unusual locations.
  • Unusual night operations.
  • Recovering or tossing items into/onto the waterway or shoreline.
  • Operating in or passing through an area that does not typically have such activity.
  • Missing fencing or lighting near sensitive locations.
  • Transfer of people or items between vessels, or between vessels and the shore outside of a port.
  • Anyone operating in an aggressive manner.
  • Small planes flying over critical locations.
  • Persons attempting to buy or rent fishing or recreational vessels with cash for short-term, undefined use.
  • Other suspicious activity.

Call the National Response Center at 877-24WATCH (249-2824) or 911 to report suspicious activity.

Boat Theft Prevention

When Buying a Boat

  • Be careful because it could be stolen.
  • Be certain that the boat’s description on the title matches the boat you are buying. Check year, make, length, and hull identification number.
  • Be sure the model and serial number on an outboard motor have not been removed, tampered with or altered.
  • Be suspicious of a fresh paint job on a late model vessel.
  • When buying a used vessel, try to deal with a reputable marine dealer or a broker licensed by the state.
  • If the price seems too good to be true, there is a good chance that the boat is stolen.

Equipment Identification

  • Mark all equipment when purchased.
  • If your boat was built before 1972, it may not have a hull identification number.
  • It is a good idea to inscribe that registration number onto some unexposed location on the interior of your boat.
  • Document boat contents.
  • Store gear/electronics when not in use.

Trailerable Boats

Stealing a boat is much easier if a thief can hitch up to your boat on a trailer and drive away. These tips may help.

  • If possible, store the boat and trailer in a locked garage.
  • Store boats in the back or side yard out of sight.
  • Store the boat with the trailer tongue not easily accessible.
  • Park another vehicle or other large object in front of the trailer.
  • Remove one trailer wheel.
  • Purchase a good quality trailer hitch lock and use it — even if stored inside.

Vessel Security

There are several things that can be done to reduce the risk of vessel theft.

  • Lock marine hatch.
  • Lock the forward hatch.
  • Lock windows.

Report It

If your boat, trailer, or gear is missing, report it immediately to the following groups. Use your written and photographic marine record to give specific and complete information.

Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless, tasteless gas that can be toxic in small quantities. It is produced by engines, generators, grills, and other equipment commonly used by boaters. Every year people who recreate on and around boats are overcome by the effects of carbon monoxide.

Recreational boaters need to be aware of carbon monoxide poisoning prevention practices such as regular professional boat inspections; the installation and maintenance of carbon dioxide detectors in living spaces; the hazards of “platform dragging; exhaust leaks from CO sources, specific boat design features of concern (especially houseboats); and the danger of swimming near the stern of the watercraft while generators, engines or other carbon monoxide producing equipment is in operation.

Capsizings and Falls Overboard

Capsizings and falls overboard are the leading cause of fatal boating incidents. To help lessen the chance of capsizing or falling overboard, follow these basic safety tips:

  • Always wear your life jacket.
  • Stay low in the boat and maintain 3 points of contact. Keep 2 feet and 1 hand, or 2 hands and 1 foot in contact with the boat at all times. If seated, you have one point of contact on the seat, and still need to maintain 2 others — such as 1 foot, 1 hand, 2 feet, etc.
  • When loading supplies into a boat, have one person get into the boat and then hand that person the supplies.
  • If retrieving an item from the water, maneuver the boat close to the object and use a boathook or paddle. If you do need to reach outside the hull of the boat, keep 3-points of contact.
  • Keep an even, balanced load.
  • Do not attach the anchor line to the stern of the boat.
  • When pulling up the anchor, stay low in the boat and well balanced.
  • If in rough waters, head the bow of the boat anywhere from directly into the seas up to a 45 degree angle depending on sea state and vessel construction.
  • Follow the information stated on the “Capacity Plate.” Never exceed the allowable weight, horsepower rating, or maximum number of people.