According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the number of registered vessels in Florida in 2003 (the last year for which statistics are available) was 978,225, which represents an all-time high. Florida’s many waterways and mild weather make it an ideal boating destination. Unfortunately, the large number of Florida boaters also means a larger number of Florida boating accidents.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, most Florida boating accidents occur in March, April, May, June, or July between noon and 6:00 pm. About 48% of accidents were caused mostly by either carelessness or disregard of navigation rules. Men between the ages of 22 and 50 who have no formal boating education but have more than 100 hours of boating experience are most likely to be involved in an accident.
Each year, many Florida attorneys are contacted about boating accidents, and it’s no surprise: according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission statistics, 16% of boaters or passengers in a vessel who are involved in a boating accident are killed or injured. In fact, boating accidents kill more than airplane or train accidents.
In addition, many boating accidents cause property damage. The U.S. Coast Guard reports that boating accidents cause more than $240 million in damage each year across the country. Despite this, many boating accidents seem preventable, since the vast majority of those involved in these incidents seem to have no formal boating accidents. It seems that simple attention to boating regulations and formal classes can significantly reduce the instances of accidents.
Another troubling trend for boaters and Florida lawyers is the number of Florida boating accidents involving alcohol or drugs. According to statistics, thousands of boaters are arrested each year for operating a vessel while under the influence. Approximately half of boating accidents across the country involve drugs or alcohol.
Adding to the problem is the fact that boaters often experience “boater’s hypnosis,” or a type of fatigue and slowed response time caused by the conditions of the water and the hum of the vessel. When alcohol or drugs are added to this condition, the possibility of an accident is even higher. Currently, operating a boat under the influence is considered a federal offence. Any boater found guilty of this offence may face a $1,000 fine as well as other penalties.