Boating Season is Here, Are You Staying Safe?

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

As summer quickly approaches, the weather is getting warmer and conditions are ripe for water activities. Here in Florida, the boating accident attorneys at our firm understand just how fun water sports and boat activities can be; however, there is also a dark side to the open waters that should not be ignored.

According to U.S. Coast Guard statistics, 12,173,935 recreational vessels were registered by the states in 2011, meaning there’s going to be a lot of traffic out at sea this year, which can lead to serious – if not fatal – accidents.

As the number of boaters and water craft users increases, so does the number of boating accidents. Improving boating safety regulations is at an all-time high, especially after the Coast Guard reported an increase in the number of boating fatalities in 2011.


The organization’s 2011 Recreational Boating Statistics report showed that between 2010 and 2011, the number of boating-related fatalities increased by a staggering 12.8 percent. The majority of the fatalities (70 percent) were the result of drowning. But the worst revelations was the fact that 84 percent of boating accident victims were not wearing life jackets, showing the increasing disregard for maritime safety regulations.

The Coast Guard also reported that fewer fatalities occurred on vessels that were piloted by operators who had received boating safety instruction (11 percent) and only 7 percent of the fatalities took place on vessels where the operator had received boating safety instruction from a NASBLA-approved course provider. The National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) is national nonprofit organization that works to increase boating safety awareness and reduce the number of accidents and fatalities.

Yet, disturbing boating accident trends continue to come to light. Had boaters made just minor changes to their habits while out at sea, the number of accidents could have been reduced. One of these bad habits is alcohol consumption.

The Coast Guard report showed that alcohol was the leading factor in 16 percent of boating accident deaths, despite the fact that Boating Under the Influence (BUI) is a crime.

Other factors leading to recreational vehicle accidents include excessive speeding, operator distraction and operator inexperience. These factors all led to collisions with other vessels, collisions with fixed objects, overboard accidents and other serious incidents. While some might think that maritime tragedies are exclusive to larger vessels, like cruise ships, the shocking reality is that most boating accidents involve motorboats that are less than 21 feet in length.

In short, the need to stay safe at sea is critical.

There are many ways to reduce the chances of being involved in a recreational water vehicle accident, and it starts with the boater.

If you plan on enjoying your summer aboard any type of water craft, be it a motor boat, jet ski or kayak, there are a few safety tips that could keep you from sustaining life-changing injuries.

First, if you plan on piloting a vessel, be sure to register for a boating safety course. The Coast Guard offers safety courses throughout the year in most areas, especially in cities that are known for water activities. It is also important to wear a life jacket at all times. Life jackets save lives, especially in the event that you go overboard. Although emergency maritime crews like the Coast Guard tend to respond quickly to accident scenes, there are times in which boat accident victims cannot make an SOS call. The life jacket will keep you afloat and safe during choppy water conditions and will prevent you from drowning as you wait for help.

It is also imperative to fully understand the risks of operating a vessel while under the influence of alcohol. If you cannot avoid alcohol altogether, at least make sure there is a designated boater who will not be under the influence and who can ensure the vessel is operated safely.

Boating safety starts with just one person – YOU. Staying safe and abiding by maritime laws will not only prevent you from getting hurt, but it will also make your water activities more fun, since you won’t have to worry about whether or not your group is protected from the many maritime dangers that can lead to serious accidents.