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Springtime Boating Safety: Tips for Accident Prevention in Florida's Waters

April 22, 2024 | Category: Boating Accidents | Share

Spring is here. For many Florida residents, that means it is time to get back on the water. With winter’s coldest days behind us and the sweltering heat of summer just around the corner, April and May are two of the best months to go boating in the Sunshine State. But, with more boats on the water during springtime, the risk of being involved in an accident increases significantly. With this in mind, here are 10 tips for avoiding boating accidents this spring from Fort Myers accident lawyer Randall L. Spivey.

Tip #1: Check the Weather Forecast Before You Go (and Periodically Throughout the Day)

While Florida’s springtime weather is typically pretty moderate, winds and rain can come on suddenly. This is especially true in the afternoon along the coast. With this in mind, it is important to check the weather forecast each time you go boating (ideally before you leave the house) so that you are not tempted to go out into potentially dangerous conditions.

In addition to checking the weather forecast before you release your dock lines and shove off, it is also a good idea to check the forecast periodically throughout the day. This way, if a storm comes up unexpectedly, you will be able to start making your way back to the dock before conditions start to deteriorate.

Tip #2: Check the Tides (if Applicable)

If you will be boating offshore or in Florida’s coastal waters, you will also want to check the tides. Tides can slow you down (and cause you to burn more fuel), and they can make docking challenging in some cases. As a result, you will need to plan for the tides when deciding when to head home (and how much fuel to carry), and you will need to make sure you are confident in your ability to dock your boat without crashing into the dock or coming into contact with another vessel in close quarters.

Tip #3: Make Sure Your Boat is Ready for the Water After Winter

If you have had your boat out of the water all winter (or if it has been a while since you have been to your slip), you will want to make sure that your boat is ready to take out. Some routine maintenance may be necessary, and it is important to make sure that your engine will get you home. Just like your car, truck, or SUV, you need to make sure that your boat is topped up with all necessary fluids, and if you have concerns about your bilge pump, navigation lights, or any other components, you should address these before you hit the water as well.

Tip #4: Stay Sober and Focused on the Task at Hand

Each time you go boating, it is important to make sure you stay sober and focused on the task at hand. Boating under the influence can be deadly, and using your phone at the helm can prevent you from identifying hazards on the water.

Likewise, while boat captains can certainly interact with their passengers, they are also responsible for their passengers’ safety. With this in mind, if a situation arises that requires your attention, focus on keeping everyone safe before getting back to your conversation.

Tip #5: Make Sure You Know Who Has the Right of Way

Even though there are no lanes or stop signs on the water, there are still clear rules about who has the right of way. Generally, boaters should stay to the right when navigating in a creek or channel, but there are exceptions in some circumstances.

It is also important to know what to do if you encounter a barge, container ship, cruise ship, or any other vessel that is “restricted in her ability to maneuver.” If you are on a collision course with one of these vessels (or if you are in their way), you have an obligation to move aside, even if the navigation rules would normally give you the right of way.

Tip #6: Be Prepared for Other Boaters Not to Know Who Has the Right of Way

While it is important for you to know who has the right of way on the water, it is also important to acknowledge that many other boaters will not know (or will not follow) the rules. If you encounter another vessel that does not appear to be observing the right-of-way rules, you still have a responsibility to do what you can to avoid a collision. Of course, this is what is best for everyone’s safety as well, and while it can be frustrating to give way to an ignorant boater, this is ultimately the right thing to do.

Tip #7: Watch Out for Drunk and Distracted Boaters

In addition to watching out for vessels that are not respecting your right of way, it is also important to watch out for drunk and distracted boaters. Here, too, while you should not have to make evasive maneuvers to avoid a distracted boater or give way to a drunk captain, this will prove necessary in some circumstances. Failing to maintain a course, failing to maintain a constant speed, and drifting toward land or an anchored vessel are all potential signs that someone is on their phone or under the influence at the helm.

Tip #8: When in Doubt, Always Err on the Side of Caution on the Water

As a general rule, it is best to err on the side of caution any time you are out on the water. If you have concerns about another boater, shallow water, or any other potential safety hazards, you should slow down and assess the situation. Then, once you have determined a safe course of action, you can make a smart and safe decision and continue on your way.

Tip #9: Do Not Approach a Dock Any Faster Than You Are Prepared to Hit It

Many boating accidents occur at the end of the day when boaters are returning to the dock. There is a common saying that you should never approach a dock faster than you are willing to hit it—and there is a good reason why this saying has stuck around. Approaching a dock with even slightly too much speed can be dangerous, as passengers or crew members who are trying to secure the boat can get pinned against the dock or thrown into the water. When docking, you generally only want to carry as much speed as you need to maintain steerage while feathering the throttle forward or in reverse as necessary.

Tip #10: Make Sure You Have All Necessary Safety Equipment Onboard

In addition to collisions with docks and other vessels, boating accidents can also involve incidents onboard. For example, getting a big wake from another boat or encountering a sudden swell can knock passengers off balance, and this can potentially result in fall-related injuries even without a fall overboard.

With this in mind, it is important to make sure that your boat is equipped with appropriate safety equipment. In many cases, a comprehensive first aid kit can help prevent a medical emergency and provide enough time for boaters to get back to land for a trip to the urgent care clinic or hospital. Of course, all boats should be equipped with personal floatation devices (PFDs), flares, a fire extinguisher and all other U.S. Coast Guard-required safety equipment as well.

What if You Cannot Avoid a Boating Accident?

While following these tips can help you avoid boating accidents in many scenarios, sometimes it simply is not possible to avoid suffering the consequences of someone else’s mistake. With this in mind, here are some important steps to take if you are unable to avoid a boating accident in Florida

  • Report the Boating Accident – Report the accident to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Division of Law Enforcement (DLE) or the local sheriff’s department (this is required under Florida law in most cases).
  • Document the Accident as Thoroughly as Possible – If possible, take plenty of photos and videos of each vessel involved in the accident, and write down as many details as you can remember.
  • Prioritize Your Medical Needs – If you were injured in the accident, you should seek treatment for your injuries promptly.
  • Avoid Discussing the Details of the Accident – If you think that you may have a claim as a result of the accident, you should avoid discussing the details with anyone (this includes your insurance adjuster).
  • Talk to a Fort Myers Accident Lawyer – A Fort Myers accident lawyer who has experience handling boating accident claims will be able to assess your legal rights and deal with the insurance companies on your behalf.

Contact Us for a Free Consultation with Fort Myers Accident Lawyer Randall L. Spivey

While we hope that you are able to avoid being involved in a boating accident this spring, we are here to help if something happens unexpectedly. To speak with Fort Myers accident lawyer Randall L. Spivey about your boating accident in confidence, call Spivey Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, P.A. at 239-337-7483 or statewide in Florida at 888-477-4839 or request a free consultation online at today.  

Randall L. Spivey is a Board Certified Civil Trial Attorney, the highest degree of specialization available for trial lawyers in the state of Florida. This achievement is reached by only 1% of the lawyers in Florida and recognizes the fact that Mr. Spivey is uniquely qualified to handle your accident claim.  We believe strongly in your case. As a result, all clients of the Spivey Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, P.A., pay no attorney's fees or costs unless our firm obtains a monetary recovery for them.

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