Recent headlines from around the state are alarming:
- Pastor Watches Two Friends Drown as He Races in Kayak to Save Them (Lake Manatee, 5/2/16)
- Key Largo Man Dies in Boating Accident (4/14/16)
- Three Die, One Survives in Stuart Boating Accident (4/12/16)
- Woman Takes Plea in Deadly Drunk Boating Accident (Ft. Lauderdale, 4/5/16)
- Key Biscayne Crash Throws Boaters from Vessel (3/13/16)
With accidents like these happening every day in communities across the Sunshine State, it’s important that boating enthusiasts periodically review boating safety so that no outing ends tragically. A great time for that review is during National Safe Boating Week, an annual event right before Memorial Day that encourages all boaters and their passengers to make a commitment to practice safe boating year-round.
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, the top ten primary contributing factors to boating accidents across the country in 2014 were:
- Operator inattention
- Improper lookout
- Operator experience
- Excessive speed
- Alcohol use
- Machinery failure
- Navigation rule violation
- Hazardous waters
- Force of wave/wake.
The latest Recreational Boating Statistics report released by the U.S. Coast Guard shows that there were 4,064 boating accidents nationwide in 2014, resulting in 610 deaths and a fatality rate of 5.2 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels (a 10.6 percent increase over 2013). These accidents also caused 2,678 injuries and cost property damage of approximately $39 million. Nearly half of the vessels involved in the accidents were open motorboats, followed by personal watercraft and cabin motorboats. Almost four-fifths of the fatal boating accident victims drowned, and 84 percent of them were not wearing a life vest.
There are a lot of watercraft out there jockeying for position. Florida led the nation with almost 900,000 registered vessels in 2014, and it is estimated that up to one million non-registered vessels also actively use our waterways. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, there were a total of 634 reportable boating accidents during 2014 in the state, and May had more than any other month. Among Florida’s 67 counties, our own Miami-Dade County reported the highest number of accidents and injuries.
Safe boating is a choice and there are some things you can do to help yourself:
- Check the forecasts for possible storm activity and adjust your plans accordingly.
- Develop a float plan informing a family member, friend, or marina staff where you are going and how long you intend to be gone.
- Pay attention and follow navigational buoys.
- Steer clear of larger vessels that may not be able to turn in time to avoid collisions.
- Don’t use alcohol while boating.
- Obey speed limits and wake warnings.
- Have enough personal floatation devices (PFD) for everyone on board.
- Always wear a life jacket. You can’t plan for an accident.
Although boater education requirements vary by state, 82 percent of the operators involved in Florida’s 2014 fatal accidents had no formal boater education. State law says that anyone born on or after January 1, 1988, who operates a vessel powered by 10 horsepower or more must pass an approved boater safety course and have in his/her possession a photographic boating safety education identification card issued by the State Wildlife Commission. Regardless of whether that applies to you, it’s a good idea to take a boating course to refresh your skills. There are even online courses available.
If you are trying to put your life back together after a boating accident or have more questions about this topic, trust your case to the attorneys 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.