What Are Some Safety Measures I Can Take To Avoid Being in a Boating Accident?
Florida is known for its easy access to water. Whether you are looking for an ocean, lake, or river, you are never too far away. Since boating is a popular pastime associated with water, it makes sense that Florida would have the highest number of registered watercrafts in the entire country! With all those boats on the water, it is important to take some safety measures to ensure the safety of your boat and passengers, as well as the safety of others in your vicinity.
There is a real need for all boaters in Florida to engage in safety measures while on the water. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Florida has the highest rate of boating accidents in the country, and the number of accidents is only increasing! Remember that you can always speak to a boat accident lawyer when you are hurt to explore your options for seeking compensation from all negligent parties.
Since boat safety is becoming such an issue, here are some things to keep in mind the next time you’re on the water:
Wear a Life Jacket
Life jackets are one of the most essential tools to ensure safety on a boat, whether it’s motorized or not. Even on a quick trip, every passenger in your boat needs to have a properly fitting life jacket. The Coast Guard estimates that of all the people who have died in boating accidents, 80% of those deaths could have been prevented if a life jacket had been worn. Accidents can happen quickly, and you may not have time to prepare. Because of this, life jackets should not be tucked away but should be easily accessible and, ideally, worn at all times.
Even if your passengers are good swimmers, it is still important that they wear life jackets. If they are involved in an accident, they may become disoriented or could possibly become injured to the point that they may not be able to hold their head above water without the help of a life jacket. Further, treading water can quickly exhaust someone, especially if they have just been in a traumatic incident.
Life jackets come in many different styles today, so everyone should be able to find one that feels comfortable for them.
Take a Boat Safety Course
According to the Coast Guard, the top cause of boating accidents is user error. Florida law requires you to take a boat safety course before operating a water vehicle if you were born in or after 1988. Even if you were born before 1988, it is a good idea to know both how your boat operates and how to implement safety techniques.
Choosing to take an accredited safety course can help lessen your chances of being involved in a boating accident significantly. The Coast Guard estimates that only 7% of watercraft accidents involve someone who has not taken a safety trading course, which means that over 90% of accidents are caused by someone who has not gone through that training. There are many different options for courses available, with some of them having an online option.
Bring a Boat Safety Kit
Emergencies are unpredictable in their nature, so it would be in your best interest to have an emergency safety kit to help to address a variety of situations. You should keep this kit with you every time you venture into the water, as conditions can change quickly and without warning. Some ideas of what you might include in your safety kit are:
- Duct Tape
- First Aid Kit
- Whistle or another noise-making device
- Fire Extinguisher
- Mirror or another reflective surface
- Bucket (or bilge pump)
- Navigation Lights
While this is not an exhaustive list of everything you could possibly need, it gives you a good start in your ability to deal with unusual situations as they occur. Additionally, if you would like your boat to be checked to ensure it has all the safety equipment it needs, the Coast Guard will conduct a free Vessel Safety Check, with no consequence if you don’t have everything you need.
Don’t Drink and Boat
Drinking alcohol and operating a boat is illegal in Florida — and for good reason. Not only can drinking and boating create risk for you and your passengers, but it also creates risk for those around you. The Coast Guard reports that alcohol is involved in almost a third of all boating fatalities, most often due to a boat capsizing or someone falling overboard. All passengers should be educated about the dangers of choosing to drink while on a boat.
Be Aware of Water and Weather Conditions
Always check the weather conditions before heading out on the water. Florida has an excellent climate for boating, but the tropical climate also means that weather conditions can change quickly and with little warning! If you notice that the weather is changing, such as dark clouds blowing in, wind speed picking up, or the water becoming choppy, it is important to get to shore as quickly as possible.
Just like on land, there are speed limits and laws on the water. In the water, it is important to maintain a safe speed because boats are not confined to defined lanes or areas of the water. Zig-zagging boats can make it more difficult to avoid collisions. You will need to be mindful not only of other boats but also boaters operating non-motorized watercraft, as well as people swimming and participating in other water sports. You need to be able to stop quickly in case someone around you moves in an unpredictable way, and it is important to take turns or curves with excess caution.
Load your Boat Appropriately
Make sure you follow your boat’s capacity restrictions. Also, try to load weight evenly, whether it comes from cargo or human beings. If your boat has too much weight on it, either from passengers or boating equipment, it is more likely to capsize or become unbalanced. Each boat has a different capacity, so it is important that you locate the information for the weight restrictions of your particular boat.
Contact an Experienced Boat Accident Attorney in Tampa
No matter how many safety precautions you take, you are never guarded 100% against an accident. Despite all your best efforts, if you find yourself in a boating accident, it is important to contact an experienced boat accident attorney in Tampa. Talking with an attorney after a boating accident can help you navigate the stressful time following an accident and help you determine what your options are so that you can seek compensation for any injuries that occurred as a result of the accident.
At Darrigo & Diaz, we have over 20 years of experience fighting for our clients in a range of personal injury cases, including boating accidents. We are available to talk with you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you or a loved one has been involved in a boating accident and are interested in free case consultation, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We will be happy to meet with you either virtually or in-person and look forward to figuring out how we can best work with you.
You can reach us anytime by calling (813) 774-3341 or visiting our contact page.