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Are Personal Watercraft in Florida Causing Boating Accidents?

Now that many visitors are arriving in Florida for vacations and Florida residents are taking their own breaks from work, renting a personal watercraft has become the thing to do. At this time of year, rentals of boats are big business, but many rental companies are worried about accidents. Many rental companies don’t even rent boats to those below the age of 22, citing safety hazards. Many rental companies refuse to rent to young boaters because the majority of accidents that occur with rental boats occur within that age bracket.

Some rental companies are willing to take the risk, but would-be boaters need to be aware that 16 and 17-year-olds usually need a parent’s signature in order to rent a boat. In Florida, if you are under 22 years of age and want to rent a boat, you first need to complete a boater safety course. This involves watching an instructional video and passing a multiple-choice test. Once you have passed the test, you can have a permit that is valid for up to one year. With this permit, you can rent a boat and take it on the water.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Committee notes that these rules are in place since most accidents occur because boat renters do not understand how to safely operate personal watercraft. Many rented boats are very fast and boaters lose steering when they take off the throttle. Those renters who are not familiar with jet driven boats often lose control, and according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Committee, many boat accidents involving rented boats are off-throttle accidents.

Boating accidents can be quite serious. They can cause broken limbs, fractures, head injuries, spinal cord injuries, and even fatalities. In some cases, property damage can result from a boating accident. In accidents where a boat catches on fire, passengers and boat operators risk burn injuries, too.

Although most industry experts agree that first-time boat renters are most likely to be in a boating accident, there is some disagreement about which renters are at most risk. While some renters allege that younger boaters are most apt to be in accidents, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Committee alleges that accidents occur across all age groups and most fatalities in fact occur with older boater renters, who do not need to take the safety course before renting.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Committee, boating accidents have in fact been on the decline. 161 boating accidents were reported in 2007, compared to 303 in 2002. Most of the time, boaters were either changing directions or cruising at the time of the accident. Most accidents included a collision between two vehicles and inattention was credited as the most frequent cause of accidents.

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