An Increase in Florida Boating Accidents
Florida boating accidents increased 7.3 percent in 2017 compared to the year before, according to new data from the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission. During that same time, the number of registered vessels in the state (which has more than any other in the country) increased by 1.4 percent.
The agency tallies "reportable boating accidents," which are those involving:
- Disappearance under circumstances indicating possible injury or death
- Medical treatment beyond immediate first aid
- $2,000 or more in property damage
- Total loss to the vessel
Within these incidents, there were 61 fatal boating accidents resulting in 67 deaths, along with a total of 437 reported injuries.
Personal watercraft (Sea-Doo, Jet Ski®, etc.) are especially dangerous. They account for 13 percent of all registered vessels in the state yet are involved in 20 percent of reportable boating accidents. Approximately half of those cases involved rental personal vehicles (compared to just 13 percent for all types of vessels) and more than 40 percent involved a collision with another vessel.
Palm Beach ranked No. 6 among Florida counties in terms of the number of boating accidents, with a total of 41 reported last year. July was by far the most dangerous month for boaters, followed by May and April.
Primary Causes of Boating Accidents
The leading type of reportable boating accident in the state, accounting for one-third of all crashes, was collision with another vessel, followed by collision with a fixed object, which accounted for 18 percent of all Florida boating accidents.
Falls overboard accounted for 8.5 percent. Less common were issues with striking underwater objects, grounding, and capsizing. However, falls overboard were the No. 1 secondary type of accident. In other words, there were numerous cases that involved a boat striking another boat or a fixed object, tossing passengers or the captain off the vessel.
In most cases, vessels were cruising for recreational purposes at the time of the accident (as opposed to being anchored, docked, fishing, tubing or being used for commercial purposes). Based on the FWC's findings, the two primary problems were:
- No proper look-out or inattention - 23 percent
- Operator inexperience - 11 percent
What all this tells us is that many of these incidents were entirely preventable. Weather was cited as a factor in under 7 percent of boating accidents, and even then, boaters who have experience generally know that weather can rapidly change and take safety precautions to ensure they aren't stranded in the water in the midst of a horrible storm.