Each year, far too many boating accidents in Florida claim lives and cause serious brain injuries, spinal cord injuries and other serious injuries. In many cases, injuries and even some fatalities could be prevented with the correct use of life jackets. Now that spring has come, more people will be enjoying Florida’s waterways. It’s a good time to reflect on the importance of life jackets.
Today’s life jackets are lighter and more flexible than past models, so that they are more comfortable to wear. If you avoid wearing a life jacket because your current jacket restricts movement, consider one of the newer jackets. It could save your life. A new life jacket costs around sixty dollars and could be one of the best investments you make.
The newer jacket models come in two styles. One fits over the shoulders like a pair of suspenders. The other wraps around the waist like a large belt. Both allow for more mobility of the torso and the arms than older models. Non-swimmers and children, however, should wear regular life jackets (not the inflatable kind).
Federal laws mandate that each boat have one life jacket for each person on the boat. If you are just getting your boat ready for the summer and hope to have guests on board, it’s a good time to buy a few extra life jackets to have on hand. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission notes that wearing a life jacket should be as basic and as reflexive as buckling up when in a car. Despite this, it appears that many are not getting the message. According to the Personal Flotation Device Manufacturers Association 70% of all fatalities related to boats are the result of drowning, and the majority of these deaths are preventable since most victims were not wearing a life jacket.
The Personal Flotation Device Manufacturers Association reports that 85% of drowning victims who died a boating-related death were not wearing a life jacket. Florida leads the nation in number of boating-related deaths. The majority of these deaths are caused by drowning. In Florida, there is an average of one fatality a week related to boating. In 2005, Florida saw 78 fatalities related to boating, saw 68 boating-related fatalities in 2006 and 75 deaths in 2007.
Boating fatalities caused by drowning are usually caused by boaters falling overboard. In many cases, these falls overboard happen in smaller vessels of less than 17 feet, but falls can happen on board any boat. Drinking on board can lead to loss of coordination which can lead to a fall. Simple inattention or bad weather can also contribute to falls.