With 901,969 registered vessel, Florida leads the nation in registered boating vessels. Additionally, it is estimated that up to 1 million non-registered vessels actively use Florida’s waters. It is not surprising that Florida also leads the nation in boating accidents.
The number of boating accidents across the nation, increased by more than 50% from 1997 to 2012. In 2012, there were 4,515 accidents with 3,000 injuries and 651 fatalities as a result of recreational boating accidents in the United States. In Florida, during that same period, there were 704 boating accidents, resulting in 386 injuries and 55 fatalities.
Both federal and state agencies regulate boating safety. The United States Coast Guard (USCG) is the federal agency which is designated as the National Recreational Boating Safety Coordinator.
According to the USCG, there are a number of different factors commonly causing boating accidents:
- BUI (Boating Under the Influence) of alcohol and/or drugs, cause over one third of all boating accidents.
- Severe weather, such as heavy rains and strong winds, also cause boating accidents. These conditions make it difficult for boaters to properly navigate and avoid collisions, or even keep boats upright and afloat.
- Because boat engines produce toxic carbon monoxide, boaters and passengers, who may be exposed to high concentrations of the gas, may have serious injuries or even die.
- When inexperienced boaters encounter unfamiliar or dangerous conditions, accident often occur.
Encountering unfamiliar or dangerous conditions is what happened in April near Jug Creek, on the northern tip of Pine Island, when two boats collided at a dangerous blind curve. This accident took the life of a swimming and diving coach from the University of Florida. One boater told a WINK television news reporter when commenting on the location of the accident that, "There's always a potential that something could happen in that one spot."
If a boating accident happens on United States navigable waters, including rivers and lakes that cross state lines, then these boat, personal watercraft, or ship accidents fall under the federal maritime law. The only bodies of water which are excluded from the maritime law are lakes totally within the boundaries of one state.
The Florida Safety Handbook states that boat operators have a duty to operate their vessel in a reasonable and prudent manner with regard for other vessel traffic, posted restrictions and other circumstances. A boat operator could be deemed negligent for deciding to navigate in heavy weather, operating at a high speed, failure to heed boating laws, etc. An individual who operates a vessel with willful disregard for the safety of persons or property may be cited with reckless operation.
"Beginners and experienced boaters alike need to be familiar with the boating safety rules of operation. The USCG , through the Boating Safety Resource Center, offers safe boating courses in our community. Please click on the link above and select either on-line of instructor-lead courses," says Lee County Safe Boating Attorney, Randall Spivey.
Personal Injury 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.