By Marcus Fernandez
An abundance of inland waterways and limitless access to the ocean offer many boating opportunities to Floridians. Boating is possible year round in the Sunshine State, but the summer months are when its popularity soars. According to data compiled by the state, almost one million boats and watercraft ply the waters in and around Florida. More than more than 40,000 of them in Hillsborough County alone. The numbers reflect how much Floridians enjoy the boating lifestyle, but boating congestion increases the chances for injuries and deaths to occur. Boat operators and passengers must make the choice to stay safe while boating by following a few simple safety tips.
Avoid reckless and careless operation
Boaters were involved in 723 reportable accidents according to the most currently available annual statistics from state officials. An accident must be reported when any of the following occur:
- Someone disappears and the circumstances indicate either a death or injury.
- An injury occurs requiring medical treatment.
- At least $2,000 in damage to a vessel, dock or other property.
- A total loss of a boat or other type of vessel.
Sixty-five people lost their lives in boating accidents. Another 453 people injured themselves. Collisions between two or more boats was the leading type of accident reported to FWC.
Boaters can reduce the risk of a collision by operating watercraft with regard for the safety of others. Reckless and careless operation of a vessel not only increases the risk of an accident, but it is illegal and punishable as a criminal offense. Examples of reckless operation of a vessel include ignoring posted speed or wake restrictions, ignoring divers-down flags and operating in a manner that poses a danger to people or property.
Do not drink and drive
Impaired driving is as much of a problem on the water as it is on the road. Accident statistics show there is a greater risk of a fatality when the operator of a boat involved in an accident is under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Florida boating under the influence laws apply to all types of vessels, including kayaks and canoes. The blood-alcohol level for boaters of 0.08% or higher is the same as it is for drivers of motor vehicles. But boaters younger than 21 with a blood level of 0.02% or greater are presumed to be under the influence.
Have life jackets on board and wear them!
U.S. Coast Guard regulations require that all recreational boaters have an approved life jacket for each person on board. If a child is on board, there must be a life jacket specifically sized for a child on the vessel. Florida officials and the USCG recommend the wearing of personal floatation devices at all times.
Florida regulations require people on jet skis to wear an approved personal floatation device at all times. Operators also must attach an engine cutoff lanyard that will turn off the engine if they fall into the water.
State law requires all vessels measuring 16 feet or longer to have a throwable floatation device approved by the USCG to toss to someone who may fall overboard. Vessels of this size also must carry visual distress signals when operating on coastal waters, and all boaters must have on board a device, such as a horn or whistle, capable of producing a sound to warn other vessels.
Do not overload a boat
Getting together with friends and family for a day on the water can turn to tragedy when you exceed the number of people the manufacturer recommends for safe operation. Too many people or equipment can make it difficult to control the vessel or may cause it to ride too low and take on water.
Have the proper equipment for emergencies
Even if you do not plan to be out on the water after dark, have a flashlight and batteries on hand. Other equipment that may come in handy in an emergency includes:
- First aid kit.
- Bucket or other device to remove water.
- Extra rope.
- Fire extinguisher in motorized vessels.
- Water to drink.
Bring extra clothing to change into instead of remaining in wet clothes as the temperatures drop after sunset.
Check the weather forecast and let someone know your itinerary
A warm, sunny Florida day on the water may quickly turn stormy, so check the weather forecast before leaving dockside. Pay careful attention to the wind because calm winds that turn gusty can be dangerous for small boats.
Whether you plan a trip on coastal waters or an inland waterway, always let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return. Ask the person to notify the USCG or police in the event you do not return at the expected time.
A Tampa personal injury lawyer can help with boating accidents
If, in spite of your best efforts to stay safe while boating, you or a family member suffers injuries in a boating accident, contact a Tampa personal injury lawyer for help. The lawyer can offer sound legal advice and options about compensation available to you should the injuries be caused by the fault of another party. Call to speak to an experienced Kinney, Fernandez, and Boire Lawyer or fill out this form to get a free case evaluation.