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Boating Accidents – Staying Safe on Florida’s Waterways

Posted by Goldberg Noone Abraham | Jun 24, 2013 | 0 Comments

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Summer is here, and along with the increase in the heat index and the afternoon squalls comes so many more boaters on Southwest Florida waters. (Florida leads the US in the number of registered vessels with 922,491 as of 2011). I'm a boater, and my family and I love getting out and exploring the area's abundant back waters and our favorite fishing holes. And as a personal injury attorney, I can tell you that this time of year brings out some truly scary scenarios on the water, and many of them are just a recipe for disaster.

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There are so many ways that a boat's captain can get into serious trouble on the water. Some of them are pretty obvious, like piloting a boat or personal watercraft (PWC) while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Sure, it's hot out there. But, far too many people either don't care or don't know that there are BUI laws on the books in Lee County – just because you're behind the wheel of a boat and not a car, you're still subject to certain laws that effect the safety of you and those around you.  And a lot of inexperienced boaters don't realize that the effects of alcohol on your system can be greatly amplified when you're out in the sun all day.

But there are a lot more reasons for serious boat accidents than just alcohol. Here are some other statistics published by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in their 2011 Boating Accident Statistical Report:

  • 742 boating accidents were reported in 2011

  • 67 fatalities from boating accidents were reported in 2011

  • 51% of operators involved in reported accidents had no formal boater education

  • 39% of fatalities involved people falling overboard – the number one cause of boating-related fatalities

  • 93% of boating accident fatalities were male

  • 94% of all fatal accidents involved vessels 21 feet in length or less

You may have already guessed that since we lead the nation in the number of registered boats, we also, unfortunately, rank number one for the number of boating accidents. In 2010, there were 668 boating accidents reported in the Sunshine State – 256 more than in California, the second most dangerous state for boating. And locally, the numbers are not any better. In 2011, Lee County ranked number 5 in Florida for reported boating accidents, with 38, including 1 fatality.

Here are some other interesting facts about boating accidents in Florida for the year 2011:

  • July saw the highest number of accidents – 108

  • Most boating accidents occurred between 4 pm and 5pm

  • Collision with another vessel was the number 1 type of accident, with 161 incidents

  • “Carelessness / Inattention” ranked as the leading cause of all accidents, with 156 incidents

Sadly, history paints an unfortunate picture, in that Florida saw almost the exact same number of boating accidents in 2004 (743) as we did in 2011 (742).

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission states that “any person who was born on or after January 1, 1988, operating a vessel powered by a motor of 10 horsepower or greater (including PWCs) must have a Florida Boating Safety Education ID Card” .There are many boater safety and educational resources out there, yet so few boaters take advantage of them. To make sure you are confident in your abilities while operating your boat this summer and are compliant with all Florida boating laws, visit the FWC website here.

I wish you a summer of safe boating, and hope that you don't become a victim of some careless captain who shouldn't be on the water. If you or someone you know has been injured as the result of a boating accident, I invite you to give me a call. It doesn't cost a dime to sit down and talk about the circumstances of your accident, and I'll help you determine if you may have a legal case to recover financial compensation for your injuries.

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