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You Cannot Go Overboard with Boating Safety

With easy access to a number of lakes, the St. Johns River, the intracoastal waterway and the ocean, summertime is perfect for boating in Jacksonville. Heading out on a boating adventure with the wind whipping through your hair seems like the perfect time let loose and be carefree. Unfortunately, this is how boating accidents often happen.

Carelessness and inattention are the primary causes of boating accidents, according to The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. Here in Jacksonville, there were 19 boating accidents, four deaths and five injuries in 2011. In Florida, 67 people died as a result of boating accidents in 2011. Clearly, there are precautions boaters can take to reduce the number of boating accidents in Jacksonville.

The most frequent types of boating accidents include colliding with another boat, flooding, or colliding into a fixed object like a dock. Last month in St. Augustine, two people died and one was injured after their boat crashed into a dock.

Crowded waterways add to the likelihood of accidents. There are more than 29,000 personal watercraft registered just in Duval County alone. Numerous boats trying to get in and out of the water at popular boat ramps can lead to all kinds of issues. Long lines, frustration and fights among boaters, not to mention accidents while loading or unloading, have led to what many refer to as “ramp rage.” Courtesy and patience go a long way in these situations.

Preparation and planning are an important part of boating safety. Last summer in Jacksonville, the Coast Guard rescued a boater who had no boating experience or proper supplies, not to mention the fact there was a storm on the horizon. Taking a safe boating course could make the difference between a nice day on the water or a tragic boating accident. There are a number of courses available covering all aspects of boating safety, from reading the weather correctly to basic navigation skills and making sure your boat is safe before you set sail. Many courses are available, some even online, through Boat U.S. Foundation or BoatEd, among many organizations.

Even experienced boaters can encounter problems, such as motor failure or battery issues. The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary provides free Vessel Safety Checks that can be performed wherever your boat is located – in your driveway, at a marina or even in your driveway. The safety check takes just 30 to 45 minutes and boats passing the exam receive a decal alerting the authorities that your boat meets all Federal and State boating laws. Boats that do not pass are given a report explaining how to correct problems.

Many fatalities occur when a passenger falls overboard without a life jacket. It is easy to dismiss life jackets, especially for good, strong swimmers, but everyone should wear one. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission reports that more than 67 percent of all boating accident deaths in 2012 may have been prevented if life jackets had been worn.

Finally, safe boating means no alcohol. Florida laws are just as strict for boating under the influence as they are for driving while intoxicated. Designate a safe, experienced, sober driver while out on the water. All of these tips can lead to lots of safe boating fun this summer.

Have you or someone you know experienced a boating accident that may have been caused due to another boater’s negligence? Our firm’s boating accident attorneys to see if you may have a case. Consultations are free so call us today.