Miami boating accident attorney Joseph Lipsky is disappointed to report that according to a recently released report from the United States Coast Guard, Florida again, now for the fifth straight year, ranks first nationwide in recreational boating accidents and deaths. More specifically, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission confirmed that the Florida Keys holds the dubious honor of being the most dangerous part of the state.
The Coast Guard’s report confirmed that Florida had the most dangerous waterways, as they were the scene of nearly 700 boat and jet ski accidents last year. In fact, Florida’s waterways were more than twice as dangerous as California, the next ranked stated. Florida had 679 boating accidents which resulted in 55 wrongful deaths. The property damage from those accidents was almost ten million dollars. And while the number of accidents and personal injuries rose by two percent from the prior year, fatalities actually dropped by the same amount.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife report, Monroe County was followed by Miami-Dade in the greatest number of accidents. The Keys had ninety boat accidents with six deaths. Miami Dade had seventy-three accidents with two deaths. Due to the number of locals and tourists enjoying the Keys to fish and dive, it is not surprising that that destination is the most dangerous.
Unfortunately, those enjoying a day on the water tend to also enjoy drinking alcohol, because the Coast Guard found that alcohol was the main factor in every boat accident last year. Alcohol use was also a significant factor in almost twenty-five percent of all fatal boating accidents. The other contributing factors to boating accidents were operator inattention, improper lookout, operator inexperience and excessive speed. Much of the operator error could be avoided if self-proclaimed boat captains received formal boating instruction and certifications. Education is necessary as seventy percent of boating accident resulting in a death had a captain/operator who did not receive any formal boating safety instruction.
And incredibly, but sadly not surprisingly, nearly ninety percent of the victims who lost their lives were not wearing life jackets. This is a glaring statistic because nearly eighty percent of boating accident related deaths were due to drowning. Just like a passenger in a car needing to wear a seat-belt, “It’s critical for boaters to wear a life jacket at all times because it very likely will save your life,” said Capt. Scott Johnson, chief of the Office of Auxiliary and Boating Safety. In hopes of educating the public about the clear importance of life vest use, the Coast Guard in cooperation with the National Safe Boating Council launched a statewide boating safety campaign called “Wear it Florida.” The campaign encourages boaters to always wear a life jacket whenever they are on the water.
Interestingly, eight of every ten drownings involved a person who was operating or riding upon a vessel less than 21 feet in length. Open motorboats were involved in the greatest number of deadly accidents with kayaks and personal watercraft a distant second and third. The need for proper instruction and supervision is critically important for tourist use of personal watercraft, as nearly half of all personal watercraft accident involved a rented vessel.
With nearly 1 million registered vessels across the State of Florida, boating is an ever increasingly way for residents and tourists to spend their time and to enjoy some outdoor social distancing. Due to the number of vessels on our waterways, Miami boat accident lawyer Joseph Lipsky reminds all boaters to use due care, not to drink or use drugs while operating a vessel and to make sure all those on their vessel are using a proper fitting and coast guard approved life jacket.