Distracted Boating Causes Serious Injuries and Death, Too

By now, most Americans have heard about the dangers of using cell phones or texting while driving; however, it seems that many drivers do not fully appreciate the dangers associated with distracted driving and the fatal accidents that such behavior causes every day. But distracted driving isn’t just happening on the roads. It can happen on the water as well.

The National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB) met earlier this week to discuss the scope of the impact that cell phones have on the safety of our country. They concluded the meeting by releasing a statement which indicated that distracted driving was just as dangerous as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

The NTSB originally convened to discuss a tragic boating accident that took place in Philadelphia last July. Two passengers riding on a tour boat, commonly referred to as a “duck boat”, lost their lives when a tug boat collided with the boat full of tourists. A short time before the fatal collision, the tour boat experienced technical problems with its engine and put its anchor down to wait for help. According to reports, negligence may have been to blame for the fatal accident. Allegedly, the operator of the tug boat had been on the phone dealing with a family emergency on the day of the accident. He repeatedly moved between the upper and lower wheelhouse to gain privacy for his phone conversations. At one point, it is believed that the operator was using a laptop on the lower deck, which was against his company’s safety policy. The operator’s phone and computer use prevented him from seeing the stranded tour boat which was left defenseless in the Delaware River. When the tug boat hit the duck boat, 35 people were thrown overboard into the shipping channel, and two Hungarian students were killed in the accident.

The operator of the tug boat was tested for drugs and alcohol after the crash and those tests came back negative. This conclusion led government officials at the NTSB to conclude that cell phone use and other distractions were to blame for causing the deadly accident.


  • Associated Press: “NTSB: Culture of driving with phones must change,” Maryclaire Dale, 21 Jun. 2011