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Lack Of Boating Education Responsible For 70% Of Fatal Boating Accidents


It’s no surprise that Florida has the most registered boats in America, but with that honor comes a troubling statistic. Florida continues to lead the nation with the highest number of boating accidents. In 2020, officials counted a total of 836 Florida boating accident cases, causing 79 deaths (including 5 missing persons presumed dead) and 534 injuries.

Lack of boater education is cited as a common thread in many of these cases. About 70% of boaters involved in deadly incidents had no boating education. Inattention/failure to maintain proper lookout is also a top cause. Alcohol and/or drug use was cited as a causal factor in about a quarter of all boating deaths.

The number of boating accidents statewide in 2020 is a 16% increase compared to the year before, and 14 more people lost their lives last year compared to 2019. For almost 20 years, the leading type of fatal accident on Florida boats has been falls overboard, with drowning being the leading cause of death. Nearly 9 out of 10 people who drowned were not wearing a life jacket. The rate of injuries was 54 for every 100,000 registered boaters (of which there are 985,000 statewide).

Towed watersports (inner tubes, windsurfing, parasailing, etc.) were involved in 23 accidents that resulted in 37 injuries and 9 deaths. Personal watercraft (Jet Skis, Seadoos, etc.) account for 15 % of all the registered vehicles in the state, yet were involved in 27 % of all boating accidents. Half of all personal watercraft accidents involve rented vessels and 45 % involve collisions.

The most boating accidents in the state occur in May, though there is often a spike in July with Independence Day celebrations and September with Labor Day. Last year, March was the deadliest month, with 10 deaths reported in those four weeks.

Florida law requires boaters to undergo boating safety education – but only if they are born on or after Jan. 1, 1988. The agency issued nearly 75,000 boating education safety ID cards last year, most of those to boaters under age 35.

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