Can Safe Boating Week coexist with one million registered boats?

There are more boats on Florida waters, more inexperienced captains, and more people living in the state than ever before. Add to that new boat owners, most without sufficient education and training, and the results prove deadly.

“Operator inattention is a major contributor to boating accidents,” said Seth Wagner of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Navigation and Waterways Section. their attention between things like electronic devices or other boat occupants.

The FWC repeatedly encourages boaters to always wear life jackets, maintain 360-degree vigilance — also known as “keeping your head on a swivel” — and know the limits of your own abilities.

Florida marine accident records both show that drowning was the cause of death in about four out of five boating-related deaths in 2020, and that 86% of those who drowned were not wearing life vest.

Captains who take boating courses are involved in less than 20% of accidents on the water.

National Safe Boating Week runs from May 21-27, giving maritime authorities the opportunity to spread the boating safety message each year. This is a mission all the more important as boat sales have exploded since the start of the pandemic.

For the first time in Florida, pleasure boat registrations exceeded one million vessels, more than any other state.

In 2021, there were 1.01 million recreational boats in Florida. Three years earlier, there were 950,000. The downside of all these new boats is that they travel in the same space.

Florida recorded 836 boating accidents in 2020, 113 more accidents than in 2019. A total of 79 people lost their lives last year in boating accidents, 14 more than the year before.

The Coast Guard found in a 2020 report that nearly seven more people died in boating accidents for every 100,000 additional recreational vessels registered nationwide. And the seven fatalities per 100,000 boats were up from around five for the same number in 2019.

More than half of boating accidents in Florida last year were collisions, nearly all of which happened simply because the captain was not paying attention or was under the influence.

“Too often, preventable tragedies occur because people choose to drive a boat while distracted or intoxicated,” Beaton said. “FWC law enforcement officers will do their part to keep Florida boaters safe.”

To report dangerous boaters, call 888-404-FWCC (3922) or text the information to [email protected]

A common mistake new boaters make is thinking that because they are safely driving a car or truck on land, it will be just as easy to steer a boat.

But cars have brakes. Boats don’t. Vehicles on land turn differently from boats on water. The forces exerted on the human body in a boat – up and down, side to side, front to back – compare better to being on an airplane than riding in a car. And the boats don’t have doors or safety belts to keep people from falling.

Lee is third among Florida’s 67 counties in the number of registered boaters and fourth in boating accidents – seven people were killed last year. Most often, the accident happened because a boat, with a distracted or weakened captain, collided with another vessel.

Monroe County ranks second among registered boats with 27 boating accidents — including two fatalities — and $8 million in property damage last year, just behind Miami-Dade County with 95 accidents, seven fatalities and $90,000 in damages.

Collier County ranks eighth in boat count, with 28 accidents and no fatalities. Sarasota and Charlotte counties rank 12th and 28th respectively for registered pleasure craft, with no fatalities in either county last year.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

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A 29ft motorboat was traveling south in Monroe County when the captain swerved to avoid a head-on collision with another boat, which caused the vessel to crash into mangroves along the shore.

The Coast Guard’s 2020 report found that among boaters nationwide over the previous year, accidents increased 26%, fatalities increased 25% and injuries increased 25%.

Scott Croft, vice president of TowBoatUS, said keeping a boat fit, both mechanically and stocked with required safety gear, is another key to a safe and relaxed day on the water.

TowBoatUS is a marine towing service for pleasure and commercial boats. Croft said that in Florida, mechanical breakdowns are the number one reason they are called in to help. This is followed by grounding, electrical failures and lack of fuel, and overheated engines.

He said he makes sure his safety gear is in good working order by taking his boat for a safety inspection often held on the water by the Coast Guard Auxiliary or the United States Power Squadron. United.

“They don’t have the authority to write a ticket or order you to pull your boat out of the water immediately. It really is a great program that focuses on education, not penalties,” Croft said. “What I have found – and from my own experience – is that if I fail, I take the written report and take action to comply with the part of the inspection that failed.”

Yvonne Pentz is director of communications for the National Safe Boating Council, a non-profit organization dedicated to boating safety.

“Have fun on the water, create memories with family and friends – all while boating responsibly,” Pentz said. “Ride like a pro and make sure you’re ready.

“Remember that the best life jacket is the one you will wear.”

The National Safe Boating Council recommends these tips for boaters:

  • Take a boating safety course. Gain valuable knowledge and experience on the water in a boating safety course with plenty of options for novice to experienced boaters.
  • Check the equipment. Schedule a free vessel safety check with the local Coast Guard Auxiliary to ensure all essential equipment is present, functional and in good condition.
  • Always let someone ashore know where you are going, when you plan to return, and make sure they have your boat type and registration number.
  • Make sure everyone wears a life jacket – every time. A stowed lifejacket is useless in an emergency.
  • Use an engine shut-off device, it’s the law. It will stop the boat’s engine if the captain falls overboard.
  • Watch the weather. Always check the forecast before you set out on the water and frequently during the trip.
  • Know what is happening around you at all times. Nearly a quarter of all boating accidents reported in 2020 were caused by operator inattention or lack of supervision.
  • Familiarize yourself with the area, local boating speed zones and always boat at a safe speed.
  • Never sail under the influence. A BUI is implicated in a third of all boating-related fatalities. Always designate a sober skipper.

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Earnest A. Martinez