Sixty-two people lost their lives in Florida last year in boating accidents, and there have only been 11 deaths so far this year, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which Sunday released its 2013 Boating Accident Statistical Report.
Florida continues to lead the nation with 896,632 registered vessels in 2013. There were 736 boating accidents reported to FWC in 2013. Manatee County ranked No. 20 out of 67 Florida counties with just nine reportable accidents, nine injuries and no fatalities causing $44,200 in damages.
The average for Manatee County is one accident per 1,936 vessels, according to FWC. Manatee County has 16,762 recreational water vehicles registered of its 17,425 registered watercrafts.
Sarasota County ranked No. 16 out of Florida counties with 15 reportable accidents, 10 injuries and one death causing $121,300 in damages. The average for Sarasota County is one accident per 1,438 vessels, according to FWC. Sarasota County has 21,209 recreational water vehicles registered of its 21,577 registered watercrafts.
Other FWC facts: 42 percent of the fatal accidents were falls overboard (22 accidents). Boaters falling overboard remains the main cause of boating fatalities.
The leading cause of death in fatal boating accidents was drowning (74 percent).
The deadliest month in 2013 was December with 12 fatalities.
Alcohol or drug-use played a role in 15 percent of boating fatalities.
84 percent of the victims of fatal boating accidents were males (52).
72 percent (41) of the 57 operators involved in fatal accidents were over the age of 35.
49 percent (29) of all fatal accidents in 2013 involved vessels 16 feet or less in length.
The FWC is responsible for reviewing, analyzing and compiling boating accident data for the state. Its statistical report details boating accidents and their causes.
FWC staff and officers say their main drive is to help keep Florida’s beautiful waterways a safe place to boat. “Often, accidents can be prevented by more careful operation,” said Lt. Seth Wagner. “It is critical for operators to maintain a proper lookout and focus on what is going on around their boat at all times.”
Failing to have a proper lookout is a leading cause of boating accidents, FWC statistics show. In fatal accidents, drowning is the leading cause of death.
“There’s an easy fix. Wear a life jacket,” Wagner said. “There are several styles of life jackets available to boaters that won’t interfere with your boating experience and may save your life.”
Boaters can choose from several models of light and comfortable, inflatable belt-pack and over-the-shoulder life jackets that can be worn while fishing or enjoying the sun, and they do not interfere with boating activities.
Accidents can occur without warning, and if for some reason someone ends up in the water, quite often it’s too late to put on a life jacket. “The leading type of accident continues to be boaters colliding with other boats or objects,” Wagner said. “With the number of boaters in our beautiful state, it’s important to pay close attention to everything that’s going on around you.”