With summer here and beautiful water all around us, who wouldn’t want to take the boat out for an afternoon trip? Unfortunately, each boating jaunt is a risk for a boating accident – something that is on the rise in Florida.
According to ABC Action News, Florida continues to lead the nation in boating accidents. Boating accidents are up 7.3 percent nationwide, and boating deaths are up a whopping 12 percent from 2015 to 2016, according to newly-released statistics compiled by the U.S. Coast Guard in their annual report.
There were 684 boating accidents in Florida alone in 2016, up from 671 the year before, and 581 in 2014, according to the report. This gives Florida the highest number of boating accidents in 2016 by far than any other state.
The new goods is that many of the boating accidents, and the associated deaths, were avoidable. According to the report, 83 percent of drowning victims from a boating accident were not wearing a life jacket. Also, alcohol played a role in approximately 15% of boating deaths which makes it the leading primary cause.
Preventing a Boating Accident
Boating Magazine provides many tips on how to reduce the risk of a boating accident. Here are a few of them:
- No Speeding at Night: One of the chief causes of boating accidents is failing to maintain a safe speed for the conditions. At night, a boater can’t always trust their senses to determine whether the way is clear. For example, another boat’s lights may have failed, creating a navigation hazard. The rules don’t forgive boaters who fail to travel at a reasonably safe speed for the environment, especially at night.
- Check Proper Safety Gear: Too many boaters don’t pay attention to the safety gear on their boat. Often they’ll depart without the proper number and sizes of life jackets. Make sure life jackets fit and are properly adjusted to the people who will be wearing them. Others leave port without working flares, properly functioning running lights or horn, or alternative propulsion such as a canoe paddle (required in some locations). Boaters often overlook the safety value of anchors as well, thinking they are needed only for rare occasions. But an anchor is the first line of defense in a breakdown or storm. It keeps your boat safely in place should the engine fail.
- Don’t Ignore the Weather: Many new stereo systems also receive NOAA weather stations, enabling boaters to keep up with changing weather conditions. Handheld VHF radios also give NOAA forecasts. Keeping an eye on the weather is as important as maintaining a lookout while piloting a vessel. Don’t leave port on the news of questionable weather, and don’t leave port without even checking for that news. Poor visibility and high seas — even lightning or waterspouts — are among the risks boaters face if they ignore weather reports and don’t watch the horizon.
- Maintain a Lookout: When there is a collision in boating, the reason tendered by the victims is usually, “I didn’t see them coming.” Well, it’s the captain’s job to see them coming. Whether at anchor or on the fly, maintaining a lookout is mandatory for safe boating.
- Wear a Life Jacket: According to Coast Guard statistics, about half of the drowning fatalities in boating involve boaters without life jackets. Having a life jacket nearby is not good enough. If you aren’t going to wear your life jacket at all times, be mindful of the most critical times. Keep it handy, and put it on in rough weather, during night passages and always in cold-weather boating situations — the numbers show that too many boaters who enter cold water unexpectedly die within minutes from being unable to get out of it.
- Take Precautions for Falling Overboard: If you fall overboard and hit your head on the way out of the boat and knock yourself unconscious, you won’t float face up. That’s why wearing a life jacket is so important. This is especially true for solo boaters. If a solo boater falls overboard, the boat is likely to continue on without him or her until it runs out of gas. Solo boaters should wear the emergency cut-off switch lanyard so that if this happens, the boat stops in its tracks.
Taking a few extra precautions can save a life if a boating accident occurs. Take time to be safe and avoid being a statistic.
Boat safely and watch out for those who don’t!
Personal Injury Attorney Matthew Noyes represents those injured in boating accidents, car accidents, motorcycle crashes, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents and other types of personal injury matters. He is a named partner at the Tampa Bay law firm of Perenich Caulfield Avril Noyes – one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Pinellas County. Call Attorney Matthew Noyes now at 727-796-8282 or complete the form on this page or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.