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Lanier: Georgia's Deadliest Lake

Posted by James Paisley | Apr 13, 2021

Lake Lanier Injury and Death Statistics

With 11.8 million visitors each year, Lanier is Georgia's most popular lake. It's also the most deadly, with 58 boating fatalities and 145 drownings between 1999 and 2018, and 45 lake-related deaths from 2015 to 2018 alone. This data was collected by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and can be compared to Lake Allatoona's 16 lake-related deaths from 2015 to 2018. During this same span, Lake Oconee had 19 and Lake Sinclair had 16. DNR statistics track all known injuries and deaths that occur on the eight key lakes in Georgia: Allatoona, Blackshear, Clarks Hill, Hartwell, Jackson, Lanier, Oconee, and Sinclair. Each year, Lanier is credited with a substantial percentage of these accidents:

From 2011 to 2015:

Drownings: 32/65 or 49.2% occurred on Lake Lanier.
Boating fatalities: 20/33 or 60.6% occurred on Lake Lanier.
BUIs: 265/584 or 45.4% occurred on Lake Lanier.
Total boating incidents: 174/342 or 50.8% occurred on Lake Lanier.

The primary concern at Lake Lanier is overcrowding. Each summer, visitors and locals alike rush to the lake for boating, fishing, swimming, and other water sports. Add alcohol to that mix and it's a recipe for disaster. We urge lake-goers to use best judgement, follow recommended safety tips, and always wear a life jacket when on the water. If you are injured due to the negligence of another on Lake Lanier, contact our Gwinnett County personal injury firm. Call (404) 618-0960 to speak with a qualified Georgia boating accident lawyer today.

Boating Under the Influence (BUI's)

Georgia Boating Laws: It is illegal for persons under 21 years of age to operate a boat if their BAC is 0.02 or more. Persons of age are considered legally intoxicated at 0.08 or above or if drugs are detected, and cannot operate a boat at that level. Boating under the influence is charged as a misdemeanor punishable by fines up to $1,000 and/or prison time for up to one year. A defendant may also lose the ability to operate a boat or PWC until they successfully complete a DUI Alcohol or Drug Program approved by the Department of Driver Services. A person arrested for BUI with a child under 14 years of age on board will also be guilty of an additional charge of endangering a child.

O.C.G.A. § 52-7-12 (a) states that “no person shall operate, navigate, steer, or drive any moving vessel, or be in actual physical control of any moving vessel, nor shall any person manipulate any moving water skis, moving aquaplane, moving surfboard, or similar moving device while [under the influence of alcohol, drugs, a combination of alcohol and any drug, marijuana, glue, aerosol, or other toxic vapor] …” This means that BUI laws apply not only to boats but to jetskis, water skis, etc. In Georgia, safety checks are permitted and law enforcement does not need probable cause to stop a boat.

Water Safety Efforts in Georgia

The AJC recently posted an article that although water safety efforts have increased, drownings in Georgia continue to rise. Victims of these accidents are disproportionately males aged 35 or younger, with this demographic known to typically be the biggest "risk-takers". According to the CDC, the national statistic for drowning accidents is 4/5 male. Social pressure and misestimating risks can be major factors in water-related accidents.

Safety Tips

  • Wear a life jacket. Georgia state law requires life jackets for children under the age of 10.
  • Get your boat checked by the US Coast Guard Auxiliary or the Department of Natural Resources.
  • Plan for a DD if alcohol is on the boat.
  • Take a boat safety course.
  • Keep a close eye on children.

See additional boating accident prevention tips and other resources:

Is Lake Lanier Haunted?

While most lake-related accidents can be credited to negligence, recklessness, alcohol, overcrowding, or other natural attributable causes, locals continue to insist that Lake Lanier is haunted. The lake is man-made and back in 1957, 700 families were bought out and displaced by the government and 20 cemeteries were relocated. Of the structures and remains left behind, were the bodies of unmarked graves. Over the years, divers have reported spooky underwater sightings, and with the lake's history, depth, and death statistics, it's safe to say there are human remains in the lake. Haunted or not and urban legends aside, our priority is keeping people safe on the lake by following all suggested protocols and adhering to Georgia's boating safety laws.

About the Author

James Paisley

Firm Founder + Senior Partner Born and raised in Georgia, Attorney James earned an undergraduate degree at Georgia Tech, graduating with high honors. Afterwards, he went on to study law at Florida State University, where he also graduated near the top of his class. James began his legal career i...

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