Boating & Water-Related Accidents

Boating accidents are quite common in the State of Florida. Injuries on boats are quite common and people are injured as a result of water skiing, jet skiing, fishing, and other kinds of water sports recreation activities. In the last several years, nearly 1,000,000 boats were registered each year in the state of Florida alone. These vessels and other water crafts had free access to Florida's waterways. While the number of boating fatalities has been decreasing over recent years, hundreds of people still die in recreational boating accidents. In the year 2000, there were nearly 11,000 vessels involved in 7,740 recreational boating accidents. These resulted in 791 fatalities and 4,355 injuries. Not all boating accidents are even reported. It is estimated that only five to ten percent of non-fatal accidents are on record at all.

While less than ten percent of boating accidents result in fatalities, more than half of those occur because of capsizing and falls overboard, with 90% of those victims drowning. Of those who did drown, 86% were not wearing a life jacket. Types of recreational boating accidents may include, capsizing, falling overboard, collisions with another vessel or structure, fire, sinking, flooding, explosions, disappearance of a vessel or passenger.

There are numerous causes of boating accidents. Statistics show that the majority of these accidents are caused by operator inexperience or inattention. 84% of all boating fatalities that occur on boats happen where operators have not completed a boating safety education course. Other reasons for boating accidents include lack of experience for boat operators, recklessness/careless boat operation, operator inattention, operating at an unsafe speeds, no proper lookout, and overcrowding.

Another serious cause of boating accidents is the consumption of alcohol while operating a boat. This accounts for nearly one-third of all recreational boating fatalities, and is, in fact, the number one cause of boating accident deaths. Because the effects of alcohol are magnified while on the water, intoxicated boaters are more than ten times as likely to be killed in a boating accident because of diminished coordination, dehydration, susceptibility to hypothermia, and impaired judgment. Just like driving a car, it is illegal to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol, narcotics, or barbiturates, so the penalties are stiff, and could include fines, prison time, community service, mandatory substance abuse counseling, and more.

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