Florida has several laws in place to protect boaters on waterways. When these laws are violated, boating accidents are more likely to take place with tragic consequences. But how many boaters really know these laws? And which ones are the most critical? We’ve got the answers. Here’s a look at some of the more important laws to know when you head out for some sun and surf this holiday.
First off, when it comes to collisions, there’s a good rule of thumb to keep in mind: a hit and run on the water will have the similar consequences to those on land. In the event of a boating accident, individuals are required to remain at the scene to render aid and exchange personal information. If the accident resulted in damage greater than $2,000, personal injury, or death, boaters are required to contact the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the sheriff, or police chief. If not, then the boater will likely be fined with a hit and run charge and will most likely be arrested and suffer even greater penalties.
Another important regulation to consider (and one that spans across the entire nation), is that individuals are required to operate their vessels or crafts in a prudent and cautious manner. For example, boaters are required to show caution if they see a divers-down flag in the water, which indicates that there are divers in the water or divers close to the surface. On June 13, 2014, Florida governor Rick Scott signed HB1049 into law. The new law allows divers to choose between using a divers-down flag or buoy. Any boat in Florida is required to maintain a distance of 300 feet from any divers-down flag or buoy or risk getting penalized.
Florida also requires boaters to obey speed regulations in certain waterways. Some waterways are “no wake” areas, meaning that the boat is required to move as slowly as possible. “Minimum wake” areas require boats to move at a speed that allows them to remain settled in the water. These zones are posted as such to protect wildlife and other boaters. Violation of these laws can result in tragic injuries to wildlife or to other boaters.
Finally, individuals operating a vessel should refrain from drinking while boating. Similar laws that apply to alcohol use and motor vehicles apply to sea vessels. In Florida, an operator is considered to be under the influence of alcohol if his or her blood alcohol content is greater than 0.08. Those found boating under the influence will be charged by authorities accordingly.
Boater education courses have become mandatory for boaters born after January 1, 1988. Yet, even older boaters with experience can sometimes benefit from education and safety lessons. Operating a boat is a serious commitment and undertaking. Improper use of a boat can result in damage to wildlife, other boaters, swimmers, and divers. It is every boater’s responsibility to follow the law and use due caution on Florida waterways. Unfortunately, not all boaters have the experience, education, or take the proper care they should, which is why it is important for anyone who has suffered a boating accident to consult with an experienced boating accident lawyer in order to determine their rights and options.