Florida Tops the Chart for Boating Accidents Nationally
It should come as no surprise that the state with the greatest number of registered vessels – 870,749 as of 2014 – should also lead the nation in boating accidents. There were nearly 700 reported boating accidents in 2014 alone. In particular, Pinellas County has one of the highest accident rates in Florida. It is important to take legal action if you are ever injured in such an incident in Florida.
What Causes So Many Boating Accidents?
Florida has an abundance of boating opportunities. There are water sports, such as skiing, inner tubing, parasailing, windsurfing, and surfing. In some areas, snorkelers and divers traverse the same waterways as fishermen and speedboats. In Anna Maria Island, you can find jet skis flying by piers full of recreational fishermen and dining guests enjoying the warmth of the Gulf. So there are many opportunities for disaster. Here are five of the most common causes of boating accident, as reported by the U.S. Coast Guard in 2014.
- Alcohol & Drugs
Alcohol and drugs are the top causes of accidents on the water. Since water sports and recreational boating are common pastimes for major holidays and long weekends, alcohol plays a role in many fatal accidents on the water. In 2014, drugs and alcohol caused 115 deaths combined.
Just as with automobile accidents, excessive speed is a major cause of boating accidents. Unlike cars, however, boats do not have brakes. Inexperienced or intoxicated operators may overestimate their skills or reaction times and fail to slow in time to make quick directional changes to avoid collisions. In 2014, speeding caused 23 deaths.
- Distractions and Poor Lookout
In 2014, 64 deaths were attributed to inattention and poor lookout combined. This can include playing with electronic devices like cell phones and GPS instruments or fish finders or unfamiliar instrument panels. Many boaters enjoy the newfound freedom of the water. Indeed, unlike the roadways, the ocean offers wide-open lanes of travel and far less traffic. Thus boaters can become lulled into a false sense of invincibility that leads them to tinker with devices and gadgets rather than paying attention.
- Inexperienced Operators
Just as young drivers pose a threat on the roadways, new boaters may be less able to maintain proper speeds or understand the unique controls and maneuvers needed to avoid collision. Inexperience becomes more dangerous when operating in congested waters. Inexperience played a role in as many as 44 deaths in 2014.
- Violations of Rules
Finally, just like all negligence, operators who break the rules are more likely to cause injuries to themselves and others. Simple violations like ignoring “no wake zones” or misreading inter-coastal waterway markers can contribute to boating collisions and even hitting swimmers and divers. These are completely preventable with training and careful attention. Violations contributed to at least 147 injuries and 14 deaths last year alone.
How To Stay Safe On The Water
Ultimately, the best way to stay safe is to stay sober, never boat alone, and make sure the operator is free from distractions. Passengers can remain free to enjoy their time and relax while underway, but they should avoid attempting long conversations with the operator while underway. Drinks should be in sports bottles that do not require tedious handling to open. Electronic devices should be stowed safely in a waterproof location and only accessed when the boat is stationary. If, despite your best efforts, you are injured by another’s negligence on the water, contact an aggressive Florida boating accident lawyer at the Romero Law Firm who can fight for your rights.