Within our state, there are more than 915,000 registered watercraft. It’s estimated that there are at least a million unregistered watercraft as well, a number that is sure to grow. Due to the sheer number of boats, there are thousands of accidents a year, even if many of them are not reported. It would be convenient to be able to say that bad weather and rough seas cause the majority of boating accidents in South Florida. However, the true answer is much more nuanced than that.
According to the United States Coast Guard, there were more than 4,000 boating accidents across the country in 2014. These accidents resulted in nearly 2,700 injuries and more than 600 deaths. Most accidents occurred during actual operation of the vessel. Here are the biggest contributing factors:
- Operator inattention: 563 accidents, 370 injuries, 38 deaths
- Improper lookout: 431 accidents, 321 injuries, 26 deaths
- Operator inexperience: 391 accidents, 256 injuries, 44 deaths
- Excessive speed: 282 accidents, 267 injuries, 23 deaths
- Alcohol use: 277 accidents, 248 injuries, 108 deaths
Hazardous weather and water conditions combined contributed to only 359 accidents, 168 injuries and 100 deaths. By far, the deadliest force on the water is boating under the influence. It is vital that the person operating the boat has plenty of experience, is paying attention and is sober. In Florida, the legal alcohol limit for boaters is the same as it is for drivers: 0.08 blood alcohol content. But, just like intoxicated drivers, you can also get into legal trouble if you are operating a boat erratically after just a couple drinks.