Why did Florida boating accidents, deaths rise last year?

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Boating activities of all kinds are a big part of many Floridians’ lives. However, it might be surprising to learn that in 2020, when people were generally out and about less than usual, both boating accidents and fatalities in our state were higher than they’d been in almost a decade.

According to the 2020 Boating Accident Statistical Report published by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), there were 836 boating accidents. That was the highest number since 2011 and a 16% jump over 2019.

Meanwhile, 79 people lost their lives while boating. That was the highest number of fatalities since 2011 and an increase of 21% over 2019.

A multitude of causes

One avid boater says that the spike in accidents can be explained by the fact that more untrained and uncertified boaters took to the water last year. He no doubt spoke for many experienced boaters when he said, “It’s very scary because if everybody’s not playing by the same set of rules then you don’t know what the next move is going to be. Anticipating the next boater’s move is a big part of boater safety.”

The majority of fatalities involved people who fell overboard and drowned. The vast majority (88%) weren’t wearing life jackets. Many of the collisions were caused by operators who were distracted or not properly looking out. As one official with the FWC said, “Many operators believe they are looking around, but they are not recognizing potential hazards or are distracted by dividing their attention between things like electronic devices or other occupants in the boat.”

Reckless and drunk boaters are also a problem, according to law enforcement officials. So are boaters who don’t check the weather forecast before they go out and end up in storms or rough waters they’re not experienced enough to navigate safely.

When there’s a boating injury

Many people accept an invitation to go boating with the assumption that the operator knows what they’re doing and has adequate safety equipment on the boat, such as life vests. Too often, that’s not the case. Even if the person behind the helm of your boat is experienced, you can’t control what other boaters do. If you or a loved one has been injured or worse in a boating accident due to someone else’s negligence, make sure that you get the compensation you need and deserve.


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