Boaters Run into Trouble in South Florida

beached sailboat on its side

Although statewide boating deaths declined almost 25% in 2015 from the year before, that statistic will not comfort residents of Monroe or Broward counties. Those two Florida counties were tied for the dubious honor of most boating deaths in 2015 with five each. By comparison, Miami-Dade, a much larger county with more boaters, only had three total deaths in the 2015 season.

Accidents and Injuries

Monroe and Broward trailed Miami-Dade in total number of boating accidents, total damages and total injuries, but both counties were disproportionately represented in year-end statistics. Since its origin, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s annual report on boating accidents has highly ranked both Miami-Dade and Monroe counties, and no relief seems to be in sight for either. Boat ownership in Miami and the Keys is on the rise, mirroring similar rises statewide.

Inattentive Boat Owners a Serious Problem

According to the same report compiled by the FWC, over a third of Florida’s boating accidents in 2015 were attributed to driver negligence or inattentiveness by law enforcement. Each boating accident victim in Monroe county in 2015 was over 55 years of age, and law enforcement have long recognized lack of attention paid by senior boat owners as a primary cause of boating accidents.

Other Causes of Boating Accidents

Over half of all boating accidents that occurred in Florida in 2015 were the result of a boat passenger drowning or becoming otherwise incapacitated in the water. Law enforcement has long encouraged all passengers to wear life vests through the course of their ride, cautioning that they often save lives, particularly in older people or young children. Alcohol also played a role in several of Florida’s boating deaths, most notably one death that took place after midnight in Monroe county.

Improvement, But Not Enough

Boating deaths in Florida only numbered 55 in 2015, which is a massive improvement from the 73 reported deaths in 2014, but officials across the state recognize that there is still a lot of work to be done. The total number of accidents statewide increased by more than 100 to 737. This increase is likely the result of a general rise in boat ownership, which has skyrocketed to a nation-leading 915,713. Another serious concern is the presence of unregistered small boats and kayaks on the state’s waterways: some estimates put the total number of these vehicles at around one million.

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