Florida offers some of the best waterways for boating that include 1,350 miles of coastline and 4,500 square miles of waterways. It’s one of the most popular vacation spots for students on spring break. There are more registered boats in Florida than any other state, so it’s understandable that the state leads the country in an unwanted distinction: the most boat accidents and fatalities every year since 2015.
The tropical climate and abundant waterways make boating as natural as driving for many people. Unfortunately, boaters often operate the boats under the influence. There are tropical dangers that include snakes, alligators, and crocodiles.
Dangers of Distracted Boating
Distracted sailing results in more accidents and deaths than boating under the influence. Boating doesn’t require formal education, an operator’s license or experience. About 47% of boaters involved in crashes on Treasure Coast had no education in boating.
People get too comfortable on the water because it’s a form of recreation. However, there are no lanes, boating guidelines, or universal safety regulations. Boaters relax but discover that distracted boating can result in severe danger of collisions, unexpected waves, and sudden squalls. A TCPalm study found that inattention surpassed every cause of accidents — such as machinery failures, weather, speeding, alcohol, and hazardous waters.
Boating Under the Influence
Boating under the influence increases inattention and accidents. Florida had nearly twice as many accidents as the next highest state: 671 recreational accidents in 2015 to California’s 369 accidents. There were 52 fatalities, which was ahead of California’s 48 and Texas’s 44.
The primary cause of fatalities was drowning, which accounted for 60% of deaths. A startling number, 82%, wore no flotation device. Alcohol or drug use accounted for eight of the deaths in Florida.
Even small amounts of alcohol can dull the senses and prevent people from keeping a proper lookout for danger. Electronics are frequent causes of distraction, and that includes boating electronics like GPS or depth finders.
Charged With Boating Under the Influence
The state of Florida looks at boating under the influence or while impaired as a serious offense. You can be charged with Boating Under the Influence, known as BUI. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, fatalities caused or contributed to by alcohol use are involved in 30% of accidents.
If charged with BUI, your case will be prosecuted aggressively, so you need the services of a DUI attorney. An experienced lawyer can work hard to get the charges reduced, prevent serious increases in your insurance premiums, protect your driver’s license, and prevent other consequences like jail time (source: https://www.thelawplace.com/areas-we-serve/sarasota-fl/dui-lawyer/boating-influence/).
Protecting Yourself on the Water
It might seem okay to drink a few beers while fishing, but it’s easy to collide with an unlit piling while returning after dark. Florida waters are known for wildlife, which also provide hidden dangers. The risk of colliding with other boats increases exponentially in busy waterways like those of Monroe and Miami-Dade counties.
Those areas generally top the death lists. Boaters can protect themselves by getting educated on boat safety, getting the right equipment and paying close attention while operating the boat.
It’s also important to pay attention to your surroundings while docked or fishing. Not realizing that the boat is moving or where it’s heading are frequent causes of accidents. You must pay attention to other boaters that might be heading towards you.
Boating can be deadly if you’re not paying close attention to what you’re doing and where you’re going, so play it safe by avoiding alcohol and electronic distractions while boating.