Safety awareness can help prevent South Florida boating accidents

With Memorial Day right around the corner, South Florida is gearing up for the height of boating season. Florida is the boating capital of the nation with more than 974,000 registered boats, and nearly 15 percent of the country’s boating accidents occur here each year.

Florida led the nation in boating accidents in 2008; a total of 616 Florida boating accidents killed 55 people and injured 271, according to the United States Coast Guard. Nationwide, 709 people were killed and more than 3,300 injured in 4,789 reported boating accidents.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the vast majority of fatal boating accidents occur in South Florida. The counties with the most boating accidents are Monroe, Miami-Dade, Pinellas, Palm Beach, Broward, Collier, Bay, Brevard, Lee and Duval.

The primary causes of boating accidents nationwide were collision with another vessel (1,237), flooding (475), collision with a fixed object (446), falling overboard (431) and skiing mishaps (383). Accidents peak during the summer months, with May, June, July and August accounting for the majority of serious and fatal boating accidents.

Major contributors to boating accidents include:
-Drowning is the cause of death in more than two-thirds of all boating accidents.

-Only 1 in 10 boating deaths occur on a boat where the operator has received boating safety instruction.

-The top five human factors leading to boating accidents are careless/reckless operation, operator inattention, failure to use a proper lookout, boating inexperience and passenger/skier behavior.

-Alcohol was involved in 17 percent of all boating deaths.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission provides comprehensive boating safety information, regulations and course offerings. We encourage anyone planning to enjoy the waters this summer to take a boater safety education course and to do your part to help keep the South Florida coast safe and enjoyable for everyone.