Lee and Collier counties top the list as the most high-trafficked spots for dangerous boating accidents in Florida, according to the Florida Fish & Wildlife Division.
Dangerous Boating Accidents: Statistics
A study of 2019 accidents by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Law Enforcement division of boating accident statistics showed that 61% of accidents happened in 10 Florida counties. Lee County ranked fourth and Collier County ranked ninth in that list. During 2019 in Florida, there were 29 fatal boating accidents, 191 accidents with injury and 223 accidents without injury.
Of the 65 boating accidents reported in Lee County in 2019, most of them happened near the Punta Rassa boat ramp at the mouth of the Caloosahatchee River. In 2019, Lee County had nine fatal boating accidents, 20 accidents with injury and 18 accidents without injury.
The two primary causes of dangerous boating accidents in Lee County in 2019 were distraction (11 accidents) and excessive speed (eight accidents). Operator inexperience and alcohol use resulted in six accidents each. Most of the accidents were collisions with other boats or a fixed object.
Collier County had no fatal accidents, 10 accidents with injuries and 11 accidents without injuries in 2019. Lack of attention and operator inexperience were tied at five accidents each, also primarily collisions with another vessel or fixed object. No dangerous boating accidents in Collier County in 2019 were attributed to alcohol use.
Why Dangerous Boating Accidents Matter
Understanding when and how boating accidents happen is increasingly important for law enforcement for the coming year. Like other outdoor pursuits during the pandemic, boating has increased, with boat rentals on the rise.
In a survey by the marine industry, 70% of boat dealers reported retail growth during May. Used boat sales are also up, with 74% of dealers reporting sales growth in May. Boat and yacht listing websites like Boat Trader, YachtWorld, and boats.com increased their web traffic and leads, with a 56% increase in traffic and a 177% increase in leads over last year.
Boating accidents typically increase during the summer months, but experts expect accident numbers may be even higher with more boats on the water. In addition, alcohol sales have increased during the pandemic.
According to boatingundertheinfluence.org, a person boating while drinking is 10 times more likely to die than a sober boat operator. Motion, vibration, noise, sun, wind and spray intensify alcohol’s affects. Thirty-four percent of fatal boat accidents are alcohol related.
Safe Boating Tips from the National Safety Council
- – Wear life jackets. About three-quarters of boating deaths are due to drowning and more than 80% of victims are not wearing a life jacket. Even good swimmers need them.
- – Take a safe-boating course and be familiar with state boating laws.
- – Get a free vessel safety check available from the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.
- – File a float plan, so someone will know where you are planning to go and when you are expected to return. You can get a template here: http://floatplancentral.cgaux.org/.
- – Wear sunscreen and eye protection.
- – Exercise good judgment. Do not drink, watch for weather changes and follow navigational rules.
Next Steps After a Boating Accident?
In case of a boating accident with injuries, Florida law requires boaters to file a report with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Division of Law Enforcement or local police within 48 hours of the accident.
Boating accidents have a different set of laws than accidents that take place on land, with different filing deadlines and pleading requirements. Another difference in how your claim will be treated is if you are a guest or employee on the boat. While not all cases are going to be the same, you may be entitled to payment of your medical bills, lost wages as well as pain and suffering damages.
The road to recovery after a boating accident can be long and challenging. If you have been in a boating accident, it is important that the proper authorities are notified, and your medical needs are addressed. When you are involved in a boating accident, you should not talk about the accident with anybody other than your attorney.
About the Author
Christopher Smith is a managing partner at Goldstein, Buckley, Cechman, Rice & Purtz, P.A. If you have been in a boating accident, it is important that you hire an experienced local law firm that understands boating accident cases and can maximize your recovery.