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Avoid Florida Boat Accidents – Use Caution When Operating Personal Water Craft!

March 16, 2009

Florida is a great place to live or visit. One of the things many residents and visitors enjoy about Florida is the easy access to boats and personal water craft (PWC). The problem with the easy access is that many people either don’t think they can be involved in boat accidents while in Florida, or they put their head in the sand and ignore the dangers inherent in operating water craft. After all, if you’re in the Sunshine State on vacation or you’re enjoying a lazy Sunday afternoon on the water, you want to forget your cares and just enjoy the sun and the water, right?

Many people see tempting ads that show Floridians riding personal water crafts (PWCs). The ads make it seem like just about anyone can hop aboard and cruise off to enjoy the hidden coves and waterways of the region. Not so, says the Florida Fish And Wildlife Conservation Commission. In the state, in 2007, the Commission reported 161 PWC accidents across the state, which resulted in 128 injuries and 16 deaths. These accidents took place in a variety of areas, too – from the busier ocean and the ports to the quieter canals and rivers. And, 28% occurred in supposedly restricted areas (those with a slow or idle speed restriction and even in an area filled with swimmers, where no PWC should ever be). The top causes of these Florida boat accidents were when the operator was just cruising along or when the operator had changed direction. In other words, they weren’t doing anything dangerous like wake jumping, they were just out enjoying the day. The problem is, they weren’t paying attention and they collided with other vessels or with stationary objects.

Because the age range of 17-21 comprises 23% of Florida boat accidents, many rental companies won’t rent a boat or PWC to a person under the age of 22. If they do, they are going ask for parental consent before renting. PWCs are very fast and can stimulate the adrenaline of young (or any age) boaters. People don’t realize, though, that a boat or PWC can do comparable speeds to a car on the highway – about 50 to 60 miles per hour. Colliding or capsizing at these speeds can be fatal, or at the least, can cause serious injuries.

The Florida Fish And Wildlife Conservation Commission provides a list of the Florida boating laws on it’s website. Regarding PWC’s, they report that anyone under the age of 21 "who operates a vessel powered by 10 horsepower or more must pass an approved boater safety course and have in his/her possession photographic identification and a boating safety education identification card issued by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission". Furthermore, you must be at least age 14 to operate a PWC in Florida. After all, young people tend to think they are invincible, so they don’t worry about being a Florida boat accidents statistic.

In addition, every operator and rider, regardless of age, must wear a PFD (personal flotation device), the operator must attach the engine kill-switch lanyard to their clothing or PFD, and they can not operate the PWC from a half hour after sunset to a half hour before sunrise, even if they have navigation lights on the craft. Also, weaving through water traffic, jumping the wake too close to another vessel, and swerving to avoid collision is a first-degree misdemeanor.

Boating and PWCs can make a good vacation even better and can bring a lot of enjoyment to the weekends if you live in Florida. But, they can be just as dangerous as a car if they aren’t operated with a certain degree of caution. Give them the respect they deserve and you’ll lessen your chances of becoming one of the Florida boat accidents statistics.

If you’ve been injured in boat accidents in Florida, contact Florida boat accidents lawyer Joseph M. Maus at 1-866-556-5529 for a free, no-obligation consultation, or email him today.

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