The sunny climate of central Florida beckons recreational boaters during all four seasons of the year. But there is a downside to one of Floridians’ favorite outdoor hobbies.
Last year, there were 577 reported boating accidents in the state, the highest in the country. Of that total, there were 67 fatalities. Florida’s total is nearly triple the number of accidents for the state coming in second place — New York, with 174. Texas rounded out the top three with 39 deaths in 2014.
One reason for this is the sheer number of boaters out on the many waterways in the state. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles listed 899,635 registered vessels in 2014. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s public information officer for the state’s North Central Region noted that, “[t]he more boats you have on the water, the more chances you have for an accident.”
But the number of accidents is actually even higher than the figures suggest, as federal regulations only require the reporting of accidents involving injuries beyond the scope of first aid, damages to property and vessels with totals of more than $2,000, the total loss of vessels and disappearances or deaths.
According to the U.S. Coast Guard’s Boating Accident Report from last year, the four primary causes of boating accidents in Florida were:
— Failing to pay attention
— Inexperienced boaters
— Distracted boaters
— Excessive speed
In order to legally pilot a boat, Florida residents born after Jan. 1, 1988, only need to be in possession of a boating safety education card. The cards are issued after completion of an approved course taken via the Internet or in booklet form. As reported by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, those born before the above date are not required to take any courses. As such, there are many boaters who have never taken any courses on safer boating.
Those injured on Florida waterways due to another boater’s negligence can turn to the civil court system for compensation.
Source: WUFT, “Florida Leads Country In Boating Accidents, Deaths,” Susan Huang, July 30, 2015