National Safe Boating Week was recognized in the last week of May, and it was then the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) chose to release the 2015 boating accident figures.
The results were not good, though it should be noted that 2014 saw an exceptional decrease in the number of boating accidents. Still, our injury lawyers had hoped it would be the start of a trend. Apparently, it was not.
According to FWC’s preliminary figures:
- 2011 – 742 boating accidents
- 2012 – 704 boating accidents
- 2013 – 736 boating accidents
- 2014 – 634 boating accidents
- 2015 – 737 boating accidents
That means in a single year, Florida boating accident deaths rose by more than 16 percent. And nowhere was more dangerous than the waters off Miami-Dade.
According to the data, Miami ranked No. 1 for boating accidents in the state. We have 65,322 total vessels in this count – with nearly 63,000 of those being for recreational purposes – and there were 96 boating accidents last year. Those resulted in three deaths and 74 injuries. They also caused more than $3 million in property damage. While the statewide boating accident ratio is one accident for every 1,242 vessels, the rate in Miami-Dade is one accident for every 680 registered vessels.
Other counties across the state with high boating accident rates were:
- Monroe – 78 accidents
- Broward – 57 accidents
- Lee – 48 accidents
- Pinellas – 41 accidents
The two most dangerous months of the year for boaters were: May and July. June wasn’t too far behind. Two of the biggest boating holidays: Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, fall within those months.
These accidents primarily involved collisions with other vessels or fixed objects. Flooding/ swamping was also an issue, as were falls overboard and grounding. More than half of all boating accidents occurred while the vessel was in cruising mode.
In nearly 80 percent of the cases, the boat was privately owned. In 13 percent of cases, the FWC reported the boats were rented.
As one FWC official pointed out, “So many of these accidents could have been avoided if operators were simply paying attention.”
Indeed, 178 boating accidents were caused by no proper look-out/ inattention. Other factors cited included:
- Operator inexperience – 107 crashes
- Machinery failure – 77 crashes
- Excessive speed – 58 crashes
- Careless/ reckless – 54 crashes
- Weather – 39 crashes
- hazardous waters – 30 crashes
- Alcohol use – 28 crashes (drug use was cited in 3)
- Sharp turn – 16 crashes
Specific to Miami crashes, the top causes were:
- No proper lookout
- Careless/ reckless
- Operator inexperience
- Machinery failure
- Excessive Speed
- Improper anchoring
- Violation of navigation rules
When it came to boating injuries, lacerations and contusions were by far the most common. Broken bones, head injuries, back injuries and burns were also cited in a significant number of cases. There were a total of 438 injuries reported in all of the 737 boating accidents.
Overall, the FWC and other law enforcement agencies doled out significantly more citations for uniform boating violations – 12,275 in 2015 versus 10,899 in 2014 – a 13 percent increase.
Given that machinery failure is an apparently growing problem (it wasn’t as prevalent in years’ past with regard to boating accidents), it’s worth noting that the U.S. Coast Guard conducts complementary vessel safety checks.
The FWC further encourages boaters to take a boater safety course, wear their life jackets (especially children) and make sure the operator stays sober and alert.
If you have been a victim of a traffic accident, call Chalik & Chalik at (954) 476-1000 or 1 (800) 873-9040.
2015 Boating Accidents Statistical Report, May 2016, FWC
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