It is no surprise that Florida leads the nation in boating accidents because Florida has the highest number of registered boats in the United States. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida reported 671 boating accidents in 2016, the most in the United States, and nearly twice that of California, the state with the second-most accidents, at 369. Florida had 67 boating-related deaths and 421 injuries related to boating last year and $10 million in property damage.
On May 16, 2017 the U.S. Coast Guard was called in to search for a South Florida woman who went missing after her and her husband’s 37-foot catamaran struck an unknown object 30 miles west of Cay Sal in The Bahamas forcing the couple to abandon ship, according to the Associated Press.
The week of May 22, 2017 two people drowned and one survived a boating accident just south of the Everglades. According to CBS News Miami, three fishing buddies had moored their 22-foot boat to a mooring buoy and begun to fish when bad weather and very choppy water caused the boat to capsize.
Why do people die or become injured in boating accidents?
The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), and others, report the following main reasons people die or are injured in boating accidents are:
- Excessive speed. Traveling at faster speeds amplifies everything, including tunnel vision, the potential for injury and less reaction time.
- No life jackets used. Most (72 percent) boating deaths that occur are caused by drowning, with 88% of victims not wearing life jackets.
- Machinery or electric safety failure. Some boat fires take place because the boat owner has not been consistently maintaining the boat or checking the boat for electrical or mechanical problems or issues.
- Alcohol use. Alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in boat-related deaths, with 21 percent of boat deaths attributed to alcohol.
- Inability to operate in poor weather. In poor weather conditions and/or minimal visibility, a vessel can easily run into the coastline, hit a jetty or run aground.
- Boat collides with heavy water or an object. Even when visibility is not impaired, and in times of good weather, the boat can capsize when it hits a wave, another boat’s wake or hits submerged rocks or objects.
Boaters who operate in an unsafe manner can be prosecuted by law.
Boat operators have a duty to operate their vessels in a reasonable and prudent manner. Should they operate the boat negligently such as navigating in bad weather, operating at a high speed, and/or failing to heed boating laws they may be cited with reckless operation. They are responsible for the safety of passengers and property.
Avoid accidents by adhering to these safe boating practices.
The DiscoverBoating.com (National Marine Manufacturers Association) says:
- Check the weather. Always check local weather conditions before departure. If the weather turns bad while you are on the water, play it safe and head for shore.
- Make sure all boat systems and safety equipment is working properly. You need to be prepared for any possibility. Check all instrument and navigation lights, horns, fire extinguishers, ventilation systems, bilge pumps, batteries, flares etc.
- Use common sense. Operate at a safe speed, stay alert and steer clear of large watercraft that can be restricted in their ability to stop or turn.
- Designate an assistant skipper. Make sure more than one person on board knows how to handle the boat.
- Develop a float plan. Let someone on land know where you are going and how long you are going to be gone.
- Wear your lifejacket. All vessels must be equipped with USCG-approved life jackets. Federal law requires that each child under 13 years of age must wear a USCG-approved life jacket.
- Avoid alcohol.
- Learn to swim. If you are going to be in and around the water, proper boating safety includes knowing how to swim. For more information about swimming lessons visit: usswimschools.org.
- Take a boating course. You need to be familiar with the boating safety rules of operation and various water signs.
- Get a vessel safety check. The USCG offers free boat examinations to verify the presence and condition of your safety equipment.
“Boating in Florida is usually fun and relaxing, and it will stay that way if boaters operate their vessels responsibly. Should there be an accident and someone is injured, be sure to contact our experienced Fort Myers accident law firm,” said Randall Spivey of Spivey Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, P.A.
Fort Myers Accident Attorney, Randall L. Spivey is a Board Certified Trial Attorney – the highest recognition for competence bestowed by the Florida Bar and a distinction earned by just one (1%) percent of Florida attorneys. He has handled over 2,000 personal injury and wrongful death cases throughout Florida. For a free and confidential consultation to discuss your legal rights, contact the Spivey Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, P.A., in Lee County at 239.337.7483 or toll free at 1.888.477.4839,or by email to Randall@SpiveyLaw.com. Visit SpiveyLaw.com for more information. You can contact Spivey Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, P.A.in Charlotte County at 941.764.7748 and in Collier County 239.793.7748.