Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of the summer, saw zero boating fatalities in, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reported, but FWC’s 2022 Boating Accident Statistical Report showed that although boating accidents were down overall in 2021, fatalities on the water increased.
“We had fewer boating accidents in Florida in 2022 than we did in 2021 but fatalities statewide were up,” said Lt. Col. Brian Smith, Acting Director for the FWC Division of Law Enforcement. “I am proud of the effort our officers and boating and waterways staff put into getting boating safety messaging out to the public throughout the year and my hope is we will see both of these statistics decrease next year.”
Florida had 735 boating accidents in 2022, 16 fewer than in 2021. A total of 65 people lost their lives in these accidents, five more than the previous year. Since 2003, falls overboard has been the leading type of fatal accident, with drowning as the leading cause of death. Of the drowning victims, 81% were not wearing a life jacket. Today’s boaters can choose from several models of light and comfortable, inflatable belt-pack or over-the-shoulder life jackets. For more information about life jackets, visit: MyFWC.com/Boating and select “Safety-Education” then “Wear-It-Florida.”
“Accidents happen quickly and unexpectedly, and boaters might not have time to grab their life jacket before finding themselves in the water,” said Lt. Nicholas Korade, FWC Boating and Waterways Section. “The message is clear, ‘Life Jackets Save Lives.’”
The primary causes of all reported boating accidents (almost half, at 43%) were improper lookout or attention and operator inexperience. All vessel operators are responsible for always keeping 360-degree awareness since dangers are not always located ahead. Operator inexperience can be attributed to the operator’s limited time or experience with the vessel, the area or the weather.
Lack of boater education was also a contributing factor in accidents.
“The number of Boating Safety Education Cards issued in 2022 has tripled since 2010, but 45 of the operators involved in fatal accidents and 515 of the 926 operators in reportable accidents did not have formal boating education,” said Korade. “The FWC encourages all boaters, regardless of age or experience, to take a boating safety course for the safety of themselves and everyone on the water with them.”
Florida is recognized as “The Boating Capital of the World” and leads the nation with over 1 million registered vessels across the state in 2022. The FWC is responsible for reviewing, analyzing and compiling boating accident data for the state. Its statistical report details boating accidents and their causes.