Water is Your Frenemy

One of the four basic natural elements on our planet, water is to be both respected and feared. While essential for life, it can also cause death.

National Safe Boating Week

It’s important that boating enthusiasts who enjoy Florida’s many beautiful waterways periodically review water safety so that no outing gets interrupted by an unfortunate accident. A great time for that review is during National Safe Boating Week, an annual event that encourages all boaters to make a commitment to practice safe boating year-round.

The Importance of Life Vests

An average of 650 people die each year in boating-related accidents. According to the National Safe Boating Council, Florida leads the country in boating accidents and boating deaths.

The Coast Guard reports that almost 80 percent of the fatalities in boating accidents happen because someone wasn't wearing a life jacket. Florida law encourages everyone on the water to be wearing a life vest at all times and requires all vessels (including kayaks, canoes, rafts and stand-up paddleboards) to have onboard a wearable United States Coast Guard (USCG) approved personal flotation device (PFD) for each person.

The PFDs must be of the appropriate size for the intended wearer, in serviceable condition and within easy access. Vessels that are 16 feet in length or longer must also have at least one USCG-approved throwable Type IV PFD that is immediately available in case someone falls overboard.

Children & Life Vests
In Florida waters or federal waters, a child under the age of six must wear a USCG-approved Type I, II, or III personal flotation device while onboard a vessel under 26 feet in length while the vessel is underway. "Underway" is defined as any time except when the vessel is anchored, moored, made fast to the shore or aground. When boating in federal waters (more than 9 nautical miles from shore in the Gulf of Mexico or 3 nautical miles from shore, or beyond the edge of the Gulf Stream, whichever is further, in the Atlantic), any child under 13 years of age must wear a USCG life jacket that fits while onboard any recreational boat except when inside an enclosed cabin or below deck. Sizing for PFDs is based on body weight and chest size.

Although the law may not require that adults wear a life jacket, even an experienced boater can be caught unprepared and thrown overboard. Age and experience don’t float; life jackets do. Life jackets are now lighter, less bulky and more comfortable than ever before. The new inflatable life jackets allow mobility and flexibility and are available in two basic styles: over-the-shoulder suspender style and waist-fitting belt pack. Not convinced? On average, about one half to two thirds of Florida’s annual boating fatalities are men over the age of 30 who have more than 100 hours of experience on the water. At the very least, consider making yourself a good example for the children that look up to you and would miss you if you were suddenly gone.

New Coast Guard App

The United States Coast Guard has released a boating safety app for smartphones, available for free in the App Store and Google Play. The app features a safety equipment checklist, general navigation rules and local boating laws. Boaters can request free vessel safety checks by the Coast Guard Auxiliary, report pollution or suspicious activity and create float plans that can quickly be sent to family or friends before heading out.

When location services are enabled, users can also receive the latest weather reports directly from the closest National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather buoys and can call the closest Coast Guard command center with the Emergency Assistance button.

The app is not designed or intended to replace a boater's marine VHF radio because there are many instances where your cell phone may not work, such as when the battery is dead or there is no signal. Nevertheless, when everything is working correctly, the app can be a valuable tool to help rescuers locate someone in trouble by providing the exact latitude and longitude.

General Boating Safety Hints

  • Check your boat each time you set out, making sure that all navigational lights are working and all safety equipment is functional. At a minimum, you should have safety flares, a fire extinguisher and a whistle or horn that can be heard for at least one-half mile.
  • Know your boat's capacity and don’t go over it.
  • Never drink alcohol while operating a boat.
  • Reduce your speed in unfamiliar areas.
  • Take a boater safety education class.
  • Check the weather before you go out.
  • If you fall out of the boat, stay with the boat and do not try to swim to shore.

Contact Our South Florida Law Office

Of course, even safe boaters are at the mercy of others. If you have been involved in a boating accident or have more questions about this topic, trust your case to the Miami injury lawyers at Stabinski Law For 45 years, we have helped people understand their rights under the law. Contact us by calling (305) 643-3100 or filling out a free case evaluation form.

DISCLAIMER: Any information about past verdicts and settlements is based on the unique facts of each case. Every case is different, and future cases may not achieve the same or similar results. These amounts reflect the gross recovery (before attorneys’ fees and expenses are deducted).

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