East Central Florida Safe Boating Script
Florida has nearly one million registered boats and leads the nation in boating fatalities with an average of about 64 per year.
In east central Florida, an average of 120 boating accidents occur each year, injuring 85 people and killing 14. Typically, five of these accidents, a couple injuries and one fatality are caused by the weather. However, the primary causes of accidents are carelessness, recklessness and navigational rules violations. The number one factor in fatal accidents is alcohol.
Statistics show that about 70 percent of recreational boating deaths are due to drowning and the vast majority of victims were not wearing life jackets.
Something as simple as wearing life jackets would save the lives about 40 Floridians each year. Recently designed life jackets have become much more comfortable. Following basic safety rules, being careful and not boating under the influence would also save many lives.
The most likely victims are men over 30 years of age who have plenty of boating experience, who know how to swim, and who are in boats less than 20 feet long in fairly calm weather conditions.
Data shows that about 80 percent of boat operators involved in fatal accidents have never taken a boating safety course. Check with your local Coast Guard Auxiliary or Power Squadron about safe boating courses. Discounts on marine insurance often apply to those who complete safety courses. Also, check for free Vessel Safety Check events as mechanical malfunctions also cause many accidents.
A boating hazard that is often overlooked is hypothermia. Water temperatures in the 50s and 60s occur for much of the central Florida cool season. Since 2000, an average of at least 2 people die each year in Florida due to hypothermia, including strong swimmers who are forced overboard.
The best protection is to always wear a life jacket, especially when boating alone or far from shore. It only takes a small trauma such as a bump to the head or for the body to develop a hypothermic condition in order to inhibit one's swimming ability. Also, remember to let family or friends know your boating plans before embarking on a voyage. If venturing offshore, invest in an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon.
Remember, You're in Command. Boat Responsibly.