Florida reports more boating accidents than any other state, and more boating fatalities annually than California and Texas combined, a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission report shows. Springtime means more boaters on Florida’s waterways. Unfortunately, it also means a rise in boating-related injuries and fatalities, say boating accident attorneys with Jacksonville’s Harrell and Harrell. Boating is a popular pastime in Northeast Florida. The St. Johns River, the Atlantic Ocean and multiple lakes and creeks make for plenty of boating options. In fact, Florida leads the nation in the number of registered vessels – nearly 1 million. Sadly, the Sunshine State also leads the nation in the number of boating fatalities annually. Consider these statistics from 2011, the latest year for which the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FFWCC) issued a report:
- In 2011, there were 742 accidents on Florida waters, resulting in 431 injuries and 67 fatalities;
- 94% of all fatal accidents in 2011 involved vessels 21 feet and under;
- Alcohol or drug-use played a role in 15% of boating fatalities;
- 51% of the operators involved in reportable boating accidents had no formal boater education.
Florida law requires that anyone born on or after January 1, 1988 complete a boater education course approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators prior to operating a vessel powered by a motor of 10 horsepower or more, and that these boaters have in their possession a Boating Safety Education ID card issued by the FFWCC while operating a vessel. Even if you’re not required by law to get the Florida boating license, it’s a good idea to take the boat safety course periodically to keep your skills sharp and to save money on your boating insurance. To help avoid boating accidents, follow all legal rules and regulations; abstain from alcohol while operating a vessel; steer clear of fellow boaters who are drinking or failing to follow rules or common sense safety precautions; keep an eye on the weather both before and during a boating excursion by using a weather radio and studying maps that pinpoint dangerous underwater hazards. If you or your dependent are injured in a boating crash or accident caused by the actions of another, contact an experienced boating accident attorney. Jacksonville’s Harrell and Harrell, practicing throughout Northeast Florida, Orlando and South Georgia, can be reached at 800-251-1111.