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How To Prevent Drowning In Florida Boating Accidents

December 26, 2008

It’s a typically beautiful Saturday in South Florida and you and your family are taking advantage of the sunshine by basking on your boat. The cooler is filled with refreshing drinks and tempting snacks, everyone has been lathered with sunscreen, and you’re heading out on the water, well-prepared for a day of fun. But, are you truly prepared? Is everyone aboard wearing a life jacket or are you afraid wearing one will give you those funny-looking tan lines? Well, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission recently released information that should give anyone going out on a boat in Florida something to think about.  There have been 49 deaths in 2008 alone arising out of boating accidents in Florida.  Of those 49 deaths, more than 70 percent resulted from drowning.  And, after reviewing each accident, it was concluded that most of those deaths could have been prevented had the victim been wearing a life jacket.

Both Florida and Federal laws require the operator of a boat to have one Coast Guard approved life jacket for every person on the boat.  In years past, life jackets were bulky and uncomfortable, causing some people to refuse to wear them.  However, recently redesigned life jackets which wrap around a boater’s waist like a belt pack, or strap around the shoulders like suspenders, have improved the overall comfort level of wearing a life jacket.

Joseph M. Maus, an AV-rated South Florida attorney specializing in Florida boating accidents, says it’s a no-brainer to wear a life jacket when boating in South Florida.  “The waterways of South Florida are no different than its highways – you can be the safest driver around, but you can’t control what some other boat driver is going to do”, Maus says.  He believes “wearing a life jacket on a boat is the equivalent of wearing a seat belt in a car – everybody should do it.”

The statistics for Florida boating accidents are similar to those on a national level.  According to the Personal Flotation Device Manufacturers Association, 70 percent of all boating deaths nationally are the result of drowning.  Most of these deaths were considered preventable if the victims had been wearing a life jacket.

Maus also says that a boat operator’s failure to provide life jackets, or personal flotation devices (PFD’s) as required by the Coast Guard, can subject a boat owner and operator to liability if one of the passengers goes overboard.   Maus says the Coast Guard requires:

  1. Each PFD be in good condition, be the proper size for the intended wearer, and very importantly, be readily accessible;
  2. Readily accessible means you must be able to put the PFD on in a reasonable amount of time in an emergency (vessel sinking, on fire, etc.);
  3. PFD’s should not be stowed in plastic bags or in locked or closed compartments, and they should not have other gear stowed on top of them;
  4. Vessels 16 feet in length or longer must have one Type IV USCG-approved PFD on board and immediately available ( a type IV PFD is one that can be thrown to a person in the water);
  5. Children under 6 years of age must wear a USCG-approved Type I, II, or III PFD at all times while on any vessel less than 26 feet in length that is underway upon Florida waters;
  6. Each person on board a Personal Water Craft (PWC), and anyone being towed behind a vessel, must wear a USCG-approved PFD. Inflatable PFDs are not to be worn on PWC’s or while water-skiing. 

So, the next time you head out on your boat to enjoy the day, make sure everyone on board buckles up – in their life jacket. Don’t let them become another Florida boating accidents statistic!

For more information about boating accidents in Florida, contact Florida boating accident lawyer Joseph M. Maus at 1-866-556-5529 for a free, no-obligation consultation, or email him today.

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