Last month, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) announced that there are now more than 1 million recreational boats registered in the state. That’s more than in any other state.
Unfortunately, we also lead the nation in reported boating accidents. In 2020, which is the last year for which the FWC reported statistics, 79 people died in 836 boating accidents. Over 500 injuries were reported. That’s more accidents and fatalities than any time since 2011.
Everybody’s not playing by the same set of rules
With an increasing emphasis by authorities on safety and the risks of impaired boating, why are the numbers rising? Experienced boaters complain that there are a greater number of people taking to the water without the appropriate training or certification. One Sarasota boater told a local television station, “It’s very scary because if everybody’s not playing by the same set of rules then you don’t know what the next move is going to be….”
Other common reasons for boating accidents and deaths
“Distracted boating” is behind many of the accidents. Even when boat operators aren’t distracted by their phones, laptop or passengers, they’re too often not being conscientious enough. One FWC official says, “Many operators believe they are looking around, but they are not recognizing potential hazards….”
The FWC reminds boaters to maintain 360-degree awareness of their surroundings. It also reminds people that everyone on a vessel needs to wear a life jacket.
Most boating fatalities result from people falling overboard and drowning. A full 88% of those boaters weren’t wearing life jackets.
Often, when people accept an invitation to go boating, they don’t verify that the person who will be operating the boat is a trained, certified, safety-conscious boat owner who won’t mix drinking or drugs with boating. They assume there will be life vests, but even if there are, they may feel self-conscious about wearing one if no one else is or there may not be one that fits properly.
Just as we do when we get in the car as a passenger, we put our safety and our life in someone else’s hands when we get on their boat. If you’ve suffered injuries or lost a loved one in a boating accident, make sure you get the justice and compensation you need and deserve.