Boating Accidents on the Rise in Florida: Tragically, Most Could Be Prevented

Lucky to be alive, a 13-year-old boy sustained severe head injuries after two boats collided near Pineland Marina on Florida’s Southwest Coast. The accident reportedly occurred near a known blind spot off the coast of Bokeelia. The reason given? Someone was not paying attention, an unfortunately common excuse heard across Florida.

Florida leads the nation both in boating accidents and fatalities–with Monroe and Miami Dade counties ranking top in the state. Unfortunately, the numbers continue to climb.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC), 2017 saw 766 crashes statewide, the most since they began keeping detailed statistics in 2008. Additionally, 38 percent of these collisions were due to inattention or the operator failing to maintain a proper lookout.

Overwhelmingly, data compiled by the FWC and the U.S. Coast Guard show a shockingly similar pattern where such negligence can lead to death: an inattentive boat owners cause one vehicle to slam into another, someone falls into the water and then they die drowning. According to the Commission, a vast majority of the 67 people who died in 2017 due to boating accidents fell overboard and drowned. Even more startling, 81 percent of these victims were not not wearing a life jacket.

Leaders in the boating industry equate wearing a life jacket with buckling up in a car.

“We believe that wearing a life jacket is the simplest way to ensure the safety of you and your loved ones while enjoying a day on the water,” said Peg Phillips, executive director of the National Safe Boating Council (NSBC), an advocacy group for boating safety.

Additionally, anyone looking to enjoy a day out on the water should adhere to these rules:

  • Federal law requires a boat to have a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket  for everyone on board
  • The U.S. Coast Guard requires that a life jacket be worn at all times by children under 13 years of age while riding on federal waterways
  • State waterways may have different laws and age requirements, so check with your local boating law administrator

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission highlights the need for everyone to think safety before jumping on a boat or personal watercraft this season. It’s one of the easiest, and most critical, precautions anyone can take, yet statistics reveal most boat owners do not insist passengers wear one.

If you or a loved one were injured in a boating or personal watercraft accident—especially one that involves an operator who was distracted, inexperienced or under the influence of drugs or alcohol—it’s important that you speak with a skilled and experienced boat accident attorney. Please contact us for a free and confidential legal consultation.

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