The Importance of Boating Safety
Personal Injury Lawyers | Over 4,500 boating accidents occur in U.S. waters each year, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. Last year alone, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) recorded 634 boating accidents and 73 boating-related deaths – including four missing persons who have not yet been located.
With nearly 900,000 registered vessels and up to 1 million non-registered small craft, Florida is one of the top states for recreational boating. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the top states for boating accidents.
What is a ‘Reportable’ Accident?
The FWC statistics track “reportable” boating accidents that occur in Florida. An accident is reportable if it falls into at least one of these five categories:
- A person died in the accident.
- A person disappeared during the accident under circumstances that indicate the person died or was injured.
- A person is injured in a way that requires more than basic first aid to treat.
- A vessel or other property suffers more than $2,000 in damage.
- A vessel is a total loss.
Of the 634 total reportable boating accidents in 2014, nearly 26 percent, or 163 total accidents, occurred when one vessel collided with another vessel, a pier or an object in the water or on shore.
Injuries were more likely to happen in accidents involving “towed watersports,” such as water skiing or tubing. In 2014, 16 towed watersport collisions resulted in 17 total injuries. In three of the 16 accidents, a person was being towed behind a personal watercraft.
Deaths were more likely to occur in accidents involving paddled boats, such as canoes, kayaks and rowboats. Nineteen total “paddle craft” accidents caused 16 deaths and five injuries in 2014.
Deaths and Injuries in Reportable Florida Boating Accidents
About 10 percent of 2014’s reportable boating crashes resulted in at least one death – 64 accidents claimed a total of 73 lives. The leading type of accident causing death was boaters who fell overboard, accounting for 28 percent of all Florida boating deaths in 2014.
Fifty-one boaters drowned in 2014, including many who fell overboard. At 70 percent of all fatalities, drowning remains the most frequent cause of death in boating. Boaters who fall overboard are at a significant risk of drowning before help can be obtained, especially if they are not wearing a personal floatation device such as a lifejacket.
The FWC estimates that 12 percent of boating deaths involved alcohol or drug use in 2014.
Injuries requiring emergency room or hospital care occurred in more than half of all reportable boating accidents last year – a total of365 injuries, or 41 injuries per 100,000 registered vessels in Florida.
Personal Watercraft: Not Always a Safer Option
Many Florida boaters like personal watercraft (Jet Skis, Sea-Doos and WaveRunners, for example) for their small size and maneuverability. However, statistics demonstrate that these vessels are sometimes more dangerous than larger boats.
- Personal watercraft account for 12 percent of all registered vessels in Florida, but they were involved in 16 percent of all reportable accidents in 2014.
- Seventy-five of the 104 total boating accidents involving personal watercraft occurred when the personal watercraft was rented by the operator, rather than owned.
- Just over half (54 percent) of all personal watercraft accidents involved the personal watercraft colliding with another vessel, indicating that speed and maneuverability may not be enough to prevent a crash.
- Five people died in Florida personal watercraft accidents in 2014.
Boater Education and Boating Risk
Florida requires boater education only for boaters born in 1988 or later. Boater education appears to play a key role in preventing deaths and serious injuries on the water. For example:
- In 2014, 82 percent of all operators involved in fatal crashes had no formal boating safety education or training.
- Sixty percent of all boating safety ID cards belong to Floridians born in 1988 or earlier.
- Thirty-five percent of boating operators involved in accidents were over age 51, and therefore were not required to have formal boater safety training. This age group was also involved in 59 percent of all fatal accidents.
- Boaters under age 22, all of whom are required by Florida law to have training, accounted for only 13 percent of all reportable accidents.
- Boaters between the ages of 22 and 35 made up 22 percent of all reportable accidents, and boaters between ages 36 and 50 accounted for 29 percent of all reportable accidents.
Boating is a fun activity and a key part of Florida’s thriving tourist industry, but accidents on the water can quickly turn into death or serious injury. If you have been injured in a boating accident that was caused by someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation – even if you were aboard the vessel operated by the negligent boater. To find out more about your legal options, discuss your case with experienced personal injury lawyers.
Call today for a confidential consultation from our trusted personal injury lawyers at Printy Law Firm | Tampa 813.434.0649 | Tallahassee 850.877.7299