So, hot enough for ya? The local weather folks are now using the infamous “feels like” scale for gauging the daytime heat here in Southwest Florida, and those numbers are already into the 100’s. So it comes as no surprise that a cool trip on the boat or a little time on your jet ski is a favorite activity in our local waters this time of year.
As you might expect, along with the increase in boating activity comes a spike in serious boating accidents, some even fatal. Just a couple of months ago in Jug Creek near the northern end of Pine Island, two boats collided going around a dangerous blind curve, killing the swimming coach from the University of Florida, Donnie Craine.
In fact, according to the latest statistics from The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Lee County ranks sixth in Florida for ‘deadliest boating counties’. For 2013, there were thirty boat or PWC (Personal Watercraft), accidents, one death, fourteen injuries and about $215,000 in property damage. Here are some more Lee County boating accident stats for the years 2007-2013:
- 14 boating fatalities
- 102 reported boating injuries
- $2.3M in property damage (does not include 2009)
- 43,736 recreational and commercial vessels in 2013
- 30 accidents reported in 2013
Local personal injury lawyer Scot Goldberg, founding partner at Goldberg, Racila, D’Alessandro & Noone in Fort Myers, is a long-time boater, and an advocate of staying safe on the water. “My family and I fish in and around Pine Island Sound just about every weekend, and I’ve been doing that since I was a little kid here”, says Goldberg, a Fort Myers native. “Not only do I see the traumatic results of boating crash injuries in our law firm, but I can’t tell you how many examples I see out on the water of reckless or unsafe boaters – I think it’s a miracle there aren’t more boat collisions out there”.
Goldberg and his whole family make sure to take frequent boating safety instructional and educational courses, and he equips his boat with every safety device available. “The summer season here is prime time for fishing and recreational boaters, and it can get super busy out there”, notes Goldberg. “I was raised to take boating safety seriously, and that’s how I’ve taught my kids, too”.
If you’ve spent any time near the water around the Lani Kai beach resort on Fort Myers Beach, you’ve no doubt seen the large numbers of boats and jet skis on the water, especially on the weekends. PWC’s are governed by their own set of Florida laws, with the legislature creating the Personal Watercraft Act because of the propensity for serious accidents and injuries involving the fast, lightweight vessels. The National Transportation Safety Board notes that more than 90% of PWC accidents were the result of operator error. Even the definition of reckless driving has its own set of parameters when it comes to PWC, as opposed to a car on the road.
Goldberg points out some basic facts about avoiding a boating accident. “There are a lot of people visiting the area who don’t know the local waters”, he says. “They may rent a jet ski on the beach or even charter a small pleasure boat for a day on the water with the family. There are a lot of shallow waters around our barrier islands that are unfamiliar to many boaters – the best tip is to slow down – the fish will still be there when you get there”.
With the July 4th holiday weekend just around the corner, you can bet the waters in Lee County will be packed with boaters. The personal injury attorneys at The Goldberg Firm urge you to make sure you are up to date on all your safe boating instruction, and your boat is fully equipped with the correct state-mandated safety items. And if you’re wondering, there is such a thing as BUI, or Boating Under the Influence. Please use the same level of responsibility you would behind the wheel of your car – a lot of people think that the captain can drink on his boat without repercussion, but that’s far from the case.
If you have been injured as the result of a boat of PWC accident, we remind you that proper legal representation can be the key to your physical and financial recovery. We’ll sit down with you at no cost to evaluate your personal situation, and help you through every step of putting your life back together.
For the complete FWC report on 2013 boating accident statistics and good information on safe boating resources, click here: http://myfwc.com/media/2586309/2012-BoatingStatistics.pdf