Tips for Avoiding Boating Accidents in Florida
Summer is here, and this is prime boating season in Florida. Thousands of Floridians and tourists from out of state are hitting our waterways to go fishing, sailing, jet skiing, or to just enjoy a day out on the water with family and friends. But with the increased traffic comes a greater risk of boating accidents, many of which result in severe and catastrophic injuries.
Pensacola has seen its fair share of serious and fatal boat accidents over the years. Just a few months ago, a 21-year-old man was killed in a boating accident on the Escambia River. And last year, three people were ejected from a boat when it struck a bridge in Escambia Bay. Fortunately, the three individuals were rescued and transported to a local hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
What causes Boating Accidents?
There are several reasons why boat wrecks occur, and most are caused by some type of operator error. These include:
- Inexperience: The requirements to operate a watercraft are far less stringent than for driving an automobile. In Florida, all that is required is a Boat Safety ID Card, which can be obtained after completing a short online course. For this reason, there are a lot of inexperienced boat operators who may not be properly trained to handle adverse conditions on the waterways.
- Speeding: For a lot of boaters, speed is a big part of the fun out of the water. Unfortunately, some boat operators push the limits and drive too fast to safely control the watercraft when adverse conditions arise.
- Recklessness: Along with excessive speeding, some boaters routinely take unnecessary chances, such as making dangerous waves for themselves and others and driving too closely to other water vessels.
- Intoxication: Alcohol is a major part of many boat excursions, and many operators are tempted to consume alcoholic beverages while out on the water. Just like when operating a motor vehicle, intoxication impairs a driver’s judgment and causes them to make poor decisions that sometimes result in deadly consequences.
- Distractions: Most Americans have smartphones, and many are addicted to them. Boat operators are often distracted by texts and other electronic messages on the waterways. Some also use their phones for other distracting activities, such as taking selfies and watching videos.
In addition to operator error, boat accidents can happen for a number of other reasons as well, such as overcrowding, going out onto hazardous waterways, unruly passengers, bad weather, and engine/equipment failure.
Best Safety Practices for Preventing Boat Accidents
Florida has the highest number of boating accidents and fatalities on the waterways each year. Some of these accidents are due to uncontrollable factors, but as we discussed earlier, most are preventable.
Here are several important guidelines for staying safe on the water:
- Check the Weather Ahead of Time: Before you go out for the day, be sure to closely monitor the latest weather report. Pay special attention to any advisories for the local area and follow them.
- Have a Float Plan: Before heading out of the water, make sure someone on shore knows what your plan is for the day. Inform them of where you plan to be, how long you plan on being gone, detailed information about your boat, food and survival equipment that is on board the vessel, and detailed information about the passengers who will be on board.
- Follow Navigation Rules: As you would follow the traffic laws on the roadways, be sure to follow all of the navigational rules on the waterways. Observe all speed limits on the water and do not drive the boat recklessly.
- Always Wear Life Jackets: Make sure everyone on board is wearing a life jacket before you go out. Even if you are a good swimmer, you still need a life jacket in the event of a worst-case scenario such as being knocked unconscious and falling into the water.
- Do not Drink while Operating a Boat: Just like when you are going to a bar or a party where alcohol will be consumed, have a designated driver. In other words, the person operating the watercraft should plan on staying sober for the day.
- Put your Phone Away: If you are the boat operator, put your phone away where you are not tempted to message people back and forth. If you want to take photos and videos, have someone else do it for you so you can focus on driving the boat safely.
- Stay Educated: Learn as much as you can about boating safety and the features of the water vessel you are operating. The more educated you are, the better able you will be to safely operate the watercraft.
Contact a Pensacola, FL Boat Accident Lawyer Today
Just remember the Florida statute of limitations on personal injury claims. Even if we follow all the best boating safety practices, we cannot control the negligent or reckless actions of others. If you or a loved one suffered injury in a boating accident that was caused by someone else, Whibbs, Stone, & Barnett is here to help. Message us online or call our office today at 1-888-219-4561 for a free consultation and case assessment.