We’ve said it once, and we’ll say it again: boating safety is important. A disturbing article published in the Sun Sentinel suggests that a mind-boggling 90% of boaters involved in accidents in Florida waters have never taken a boating safety course.
Even “seasoned” boaters with hundreds of logged hours under their belt can benefit from a crash course in boating safety. The article cites longtime boater Arlen Gastineau as an example. Despite years of experience, Gastineau has never taken a safety course. When his boat capsized on the Gulf of Mexico, his lack of safety knowhow left him and his passengers clinging to the overturned boat for more than 18 hours before help arrived.
This, unfortunately, isn’t an isolated case. In many instances, boating accidents can result in serious injury and, at times, even death.
Inexperience doesn’t appear to be the main cause of boating accidents, but rather, carelessness. Of most concern is a general refusal to wear life jackets on the water and little to no knowledge of boating safety best practices.
Since 2004, 97 people have died from boating-related accidents in Central Florida’s waterway, and an estimated 350 people have been injured. This accounts for the highest death and injury tolls in the region. The leading cause of death (at 70% of victims) is drowning.
Authorities claim to frequently ticket boats that are unequipped with even the most basic safety devices, such as lifejackets, flashlights and whistles. Many boaters are also pulled over and fined due to passengers riding on the bows of high-speed boats, a very dangerous practice.
Regional authorities have recently passed a law stating that after Jan. 1, 1988, must complete an approved safety course before operating a boat. Many municipalities around the world have similar laws.
Along with working flares, boating safety organizations recommend that water vessels are equipped with water-activated emergency radio beacons, a device that emits a signal indicating the location of a distressed boat.
For more information on boating safety protocols in your region, contact your regional municipality. And remember; always take extreme cautions when on the water. It could save your life!