One of the many benefits of living in Florida is the miles of nearby ocean and ample opportunities to enjoy the water by going boating. Sometimes what is supposed to be a day of fun on the water turns tragic, however, when boaters get into accidents. Unfortunately, that happens more in Florida than in any other state in the country.
Common Causes for Boating Accidents
One of the leading causes of boating accidents is people boating while drinking alcohol. In 2010, 330 of the boating accidents were alcohol-related and 126 people died and 300 people sustained serious injuries in those accidents. Alcohol consumption is not only dangerous for the operator of the watercraft; it can be hazardous for passengers, too. Intoxicated passengers run the risk of falling off the side of the boat and drowning.
Other common causes of boating accidents include:
- Operating the watercraft at excessive speed
- Reckless driving
- Operator inattention
- Operator inexperience
Boating Saftey in Florida
Unfortunately, Florida has the highest rate of boating accidents. In five years, more than 350 people have died in accidents occurring in Florida waters. According to the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), a total of 4,604 U.S. boating accidents were recorded in just one year. Those accidents and wrecks resulted in 672 boating deaths and additional 3,153 non-fatal injuries.
- “Personal watercrafts” are defined as marine vessels less than 16 feet in length using an inboard motor, which includes jet skis.
- Each person operating, riding on, or being towed behind a personal watercraft must wear a US Coast Guard approved non-inflatable personal flotation device (PFD), commonly known as a life preserver.
- When underway in a vessel less than 26 feet in length, all children under the age of 6 years old must wear a US Coast Guard approved PFD.
- Personal watercraft may not be operated, nor can a vessel pull a skier or riders on a tube, from 1/2 hour after sunset to 1/2 hour before sunrise, even if navigation lights are used.
- Remember, both federal and state law requires the use of navigation lights from sunset to sunrise.
- A person must be at least 14 years of age to operate a personal watercraft in Florida. It is a second-degree misdemeanor to knowingly allow a child less than 14 years of age to operate a personal watercraft.
- The operator of a vessel pulling a skier or riders on a tube must either have an observer on-board, in addition to the operator, who is attendant to the actions of the skier or has and uses a wide-angle rear-view mirror.
- Statistics maintained by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission reflect that the overwhelming cause of accidents involving personal watercraft is due to collisions with other vessels. Maneuvering a personal watercraft by weaving through congested vessel traffic, jumping the wake of another vessel unreasonably close or when visibility around the vessel is obstructed or swerving at the last moment to avoid a collision is classified as reckless operation of a vessel, punishable as a first-degree misdemeanor.
- It is a violation of Florida law to operate a vessel while impaired by alcohol or a controlled substance. For the first offense, a person found guilty of operating a vessel while under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance is subject to a criminal fine not to exceed $1,000.00 and no more than 6-month imprisonment. The penalty increases for subsequent offenses. A vessel operator is presumed to be under the influence if his or her blood or breath alcohol level is at or above 0.08.
Tampa Boat Accident Experts
Boating is supposed to be relaxing and enjoyable, but sometimes people make poor choices and cause accidents. At Hancock Injury Attorneys, we have the experience, skill, and knowledge to win your case. Contact us for a free confidential initial consultation at 813-915-1110. Our phones are answered 24 hours a day, seven days a week.