With just a few weeks remaining in the year, 2010 has proved to be a tragic one for boating accidents. So far, there have been 76 boating fatalities, a 24-percent increase from this time last year. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) wants Florida boaters to reverse this trend.
“The most unfortunate part about these statistics is boating fatalities are usually preventable,” said Capt. Tom Shipp of the FWC’s Boating and Waterways Section.
While the FWC patrols Florida’s waterways and strongly promotes boating safety year-round, this year’s higher number of fatalities prompted an increased emphasis on prevention. At least 41 of the 76 deaths were due to drowning, and the FWC has some advice about that.
“One of the best ways to prevent a drowning is simply to wear a life jacket,” Shipp said. “Boaters don’t always expect to find themselves in the water, but if they do, a life jacket can save a life.”
There is a variety of life jackets available to boaters. New styles are much smaller, lighter and more comfortable to wear than the traditional vest-style life jacket.
“The ‘belt pack’ is worn around the waist. A ‘suspender’ style is also available,” said Brian Rehwinkel, outreach coordinator for the FWC’s Boating and Waterways Section. “These types of life jackets are inflatable, and some models activate automatically if the wearer falls into the water.”
While a few unusual accidents have occurred this year, the majority are similar to those of recent years. They involve boaters failing to pay attention to their surroundings, neglecting to wear life jackets and operating at high speeds.
“We strongly urge boaters to follow safe boating practices,” Shipp said. “Pay attention to the weather and your surroundings, make sure your boat and motor are in good working condition, check all safety equipment before embarking, and don’t drink and operate a boat.”
The FWC also encourages boaters of any age to take a boating safety course. To find a course or more boating safety information, visit MyFWC.com/Boating or call 850-488-5600.