Florida is a popular boating destination. The reasons are obvious: miles of pristine coast, warm waters, tropical and sub-tropical climates, island destinations, fishing, snorkeling, and swimming opportunities, and the list goes on. The Sunshine State’s pristine waters offer a range of boating options for all interests and abilities, from skilled sailors to weekend fishing expeditions. However, as any boating accident lawyer at our firm well knows, these activities can also lead to injuries in open waters.
Before heading out on a vessel in Florida, boaters should be fully aware of current safety laws in order to protect themselves and passengers from an accident or injury.
In order to ensure that boaters stay safe when they hit the water, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has established boating laws that every boater should know before venturing out on a vessel. Knowing these laws is especially critical as we move into the busy summer season, when there will be a greater number of boaters and heavy traffic in open waters.
For one, boaters in Florida should be aware that they are subject to specific laws that may not be in effect in other states. For instance, with the exception of kayaks, canoes, and other non-motorized boats, Florida law requires that all boats be registered. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission provides specific instructions about Florida registration requirements for boats.
Boating accidents are also subject to very specific laws. When a boat accident results in personal injury, or when it results in property damage exceeding $2,000, the incident must be reported to either the police or to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Additionally, it is against the law for any person involved in an accident to leave the scene without properly rendering first aid.
Another thing to note is that different waterways in Florida are subject to their own posted restrictions and laws. Boaters are responsible for following these posted speed advisories and for obeying any restrictions. Failure to abide by proper regulations can result in first-degree misdemeanor charges, if the incident is severe enough.
One of the major safety hazards facing Florida boaters are accidents resulting from boating under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Florida law prohibits the use of drugs or alcohol while boating. Any boat operator is subject to sobriety tests and chemical tests if stopped and suspected of boating under the influence. Having a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher is considered illegal and can result in an arrest for DUI under Florida law. Inebriation is one of the leading contributing factors to boating accidents, so boaters are advised to operate their vessels while sober in order to avoid a potentially life-threatening incident.
Finally, Florida has recently established new requirements for younger boaters. Individuals who were born before January 1, 1988 and who wish to operate a vessel with ten horsepower or higher must take a boater safety course and pass all tests in order to receive a proper boating safety education identification card. Some individuals are exempt from this requirement. Anyone who is unsure as to whether they are exempt or not can check with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission to ensure they have met all certifications for boating in Florida.
Florida boating laws are designed to keep everyone safe. While Florida has general laws that apply to everyone, different areas will have different posted rules. For instance, some waterways are no-wake zones and some waterways are subject to very strict speed or travel restrictions. It is every boater’s responsibility to know that laws of the areas where they plan to boat so they can remain as safe as possible while enjoying Florida’s beautiful waterways.