5 Safety Tips To Prevent Boating & Other Recreational Water Injuries In Florida
National Water Safety Month, 2/4
Note: This blog is the second of four installments regarding National Water Safety Month. In this series, our law firm shares tips on how Florida residents or visitors can keep themselves safe around the water and what steps they can take if they’ve been injured in a water-related accident. Today’s blog deals with boating accident injuries and injuries involved with other recreational water sports and how to prevent them.
If you love to be out on the water, Florida is the place to live. Unless you reside in the very center of the state, you are likely within a short driving distance to the nearest beach or lake. Because of our proximity to water and the beautiful, year-long warm weather, Floridians spend a lot of their time out on the water either swimming, fishing, kayaking, paddle boarding, boating, sailing, rowing, parasailing, jet skiing, or surfing (although that activity is primarily confined to the east coast of the state where there are larger waves). Unfortunately, though, more recreational water activity means more boating and recreational water injuries; the more crowded the waters are, especially, the greater chance there is for an accident to occur.
From 2015 to 2016, deaths related to recreational boating accidents increased 12% and injuries sustained increased by 11.1%. The total number of accidents increased by 7%. These statistics are national, but when broken down by state, Florida was the leader in all categories. We have maintained that tragic title from 2015-2020.
May is National Water Safety Month. The waters are warming up and more people (including tourists) will be enjoying the sun and the waves, so today we’re discussing 5 steps you can take to prevent boating and other recreational water accidents and injuries this summer.
Don’t Operate Any Watercraft Under The Influence
For the statistics mentioned above, 15% of those recorded deaths cited alcohol use as the leading contributing factor. According to data obtained by the U.S. Coast Guard, the use of alcohol is a contributing factor in about 1/3 of all recreational boating fatalities, many where the boat capsized or a person fell overboard. Drinking and boating (or drinking and operating any watercraft, even a kayak) is against the law in Florida, but being under the influence of alcohol or drugs in any way around water is inherently dangerous and can affect the safety of everyone around you. Alcohol & drugs impair your judgement and your physical ability and slow your reflexes – while it may not seem as dangerous as drinking and driving, it is, particularly if you are operating a boat while there are others on board or other boaters/kayakers/swimmers in the water. Even if you are just a passenger on the boat, drinking can still carry risks. It’s safest to save the alcohol for when you are relaxing at home after a day in the sun!
Wear A Life Vest
According to the National Transportation Safety Board, 9 out of 10 Amercians who drowned in boating/watercraft-related accidents were not wearing life jackets when the accident occurred. The U.S. Coast Guard maintains that over 80% of those deaths could have been avoided if life jackets were employed – a tragic statistic that shows the vast majority of water deaths are easily preventable. Most accidents are not predictable, so it’s important for everyone onboard a watercraft to be wearing a life jacket whenever they are out on the water. There are more options for comfortable, stylish, lightweight life jackets today than ever before, so reluctant users should explore their choices before rejecting this important safety measure.
Watch The Weather
Florida’s tropical, temperamental weather can change quickly, as those of us who have lived here for years know. In the summer, there is usually a brief rain in the afternoon, but it can turn into a storm quickly; indeed, even on a bright sunny day, a storm can seemingly spring up out of nowhere. Florida used to be the lightning capital of the U.S. (now beat by Oklahoma, but still in 2nd place). Always check the weather conditions before going out on the water and listen to predictions, even if they seem far-fetched based on what you are seeing right now. While you’re enjoying water recreation, keep a close eye on how the conditions are outside; if you notice the sky darkening, increased wind, or choppy waters, make your way back to shore. It’s also important to be aware of the currents and water conditions, which can be related to the weather – over 100 people die annually due to rip currents on U.S. beaches.
Maintain Safe Distance & Speed
Just like driving, it’s important to stay a safe distance away from other water vehicles or swimmers and not speed if you are operating a vehicle. Not speeding may even be more important on the water – there are speed limits and legal penalties, yes, but there are also no lanes on the water, which means that watercrafts travel in sometimes unpredictable directions, making it more challenging to avoid collisions and more important to have the necessary time to stop the water vehicle. Boats are higher up on the water than kayakers, jet skis, and swimmers, so boat operators may not see those below them if they are speeding, leading to catastrophic injuries. It’s also important for swimmers, passengers, and others not to get too close to the boats, as the engine or propeller could amputate limbs if it starts and the person gets caught.
Take A Swimming/Boat Safety Course
Operator error or human error is the #1 cause of all boating or recreational water accidents. It’s extremely important for anyone operating a watercraft to know exactly how it works and to implement proper safety techniques. Taking a boat safety course like these ones can help reduce the risk of injuries or death. Additionally, as drowning is a major result of a boat crash or recreational water accident, taking swimming lessons can help save a life – maybe yours, if you are not a strong swimmer!
Being injured or losing a loved one in a boating or recreational water accident can be a devastating, life-altering event. The Florida Law Group can help injured accident victims fight for justice and recover the maximum compensation they need to heal! Call today for a free consultation with our attorneys if you believe you may have a case.