Many native Floridians share a love of the water as deep as that of those who visit our abundance of marine offerings. Whether navigating the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico, Biscayne Bay or Lake Okeechobee, a river or a canal, boaters can enjoy year-round water access along with an annual average of 250 sunny days. Having no official boating season also means that nautical accidents can happen any time.
Recreational boating is big business. In the Sunshine State alone, the industry is estimated to employ over 55,000 people and have a total annual economic impact of $10.3 billion. Every November, Fort Lauderdale stages the largest in-water boat show in the world. Another key player due to its location, the city of Miami has hosted for 75 years the International Boat Show organized by the National Marine Manufacturers Association. Set for February 11 through 15, 2016, the show is now held in conjunction with the sailboat-focused Strictly Sail Miami event, which translates into approximately 600,000 square feet of exhibitor space displaying marine products.
In 2014, the top three most popular boating activities nationwide were fishing, swimming, and entertaining, with 87.3 million people taking to the water. Florida ranked third among the states for participation and first in total expenditures for new powerboats, outboard engines, trailers, and aftermarket accessories. Florida led the nation with 899,635 registered vessels in 2014, which mingled with an estimated one million non-registered vessels also actively using the waters.
All these watercraft combine, resulting in congestion and the increased likelihood of accidents. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) 2014 Boating Accident Statistical Report, there were 634 reportable Florida boating accidents in 2014 and 64 percent of them happened in 10 counties. Miami-Dade County saw the highest number of accidents and injuries (79 total accidents with 10 fatalities and 47 injuries), while Broward County ranked sixth (34 total accidents with 2 fatalities and 10 injuries).
Boating Education Safety Course
In Florida, anyone born on or after January 1, 1988 must complete an approved boater safety course in order to legally operate any motorized watercraft of 10 HP or more.
- Upon successful completion, you will receive an ID card issued by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
- A good idea for all ages.
- Offers insurance savings.
- Takes about 3 hours.
- Must score at least an 80 percent to pass.
- Can be completed in a classroom or online. Companies, contact info, and prices are listed at the FWC website.
The most common causes of accidents were operator inexperience, no proper look-out, inattention, machinery or equipment failure, excessive speed, recklessness, overloading, and alcohol use. The report revealed that the leading type of accident was a collision with a vessel, followed by flooding/swamping, collision with fixed object, fire/explosion, falls overboard, and grounding. The reportable incidents resulted in 365 injuries and 73 fatalities. More than 80 percent of the operators involved in the fatal accidents had no formal boater education.
Fun time on the water doesn’t have to end badly. Following a few safety measures can prevent scores of accidents:
- Everyone onboard should be wearing a life preserver.
- Turn off the engine when people are in the water to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Don’t operate a boat while intoxicated.
- Obey the posted speed limits and wake warnings.
- Make sure anyone who drives a boat is properly trained.
- Take advantage of the free vessel safety checks offered by organizations such as the Coast Guard Auxiliary.
Boating accidents can result in property damage and personal injuries that are just as serious as those stemming from motor vehicle accidents. As one of South Florida's most respected and oldest law firms, Stabinski & Funt, P.A. has helped many people sort out their legal rights, responsibilities, and remedies. For 45 years, we have been the trusted advocates for countless personal injury victims and their families. We also work on a contingency basis, which means that if there is no recovery, there is no fee or cost to you. If you wish to learn more about how our firm can be of assistance to you, we encourage you to contact us for a free consultation by calling 305-643-3100 or filling out a case evaluation form.