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National Safe Boating Week is May 18-24

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National Safe Boating Week kicks off the summer boating season as an annual reminder for boaters to prioritize safety while enjoying recreational activities on Florida’s beautiful waterways. Florida is recognized as “The Boating Capital of the World” and leads the nation with over 1 million registered vessels across the state. With so many boats on the state’s waterways, Florida is a leader in promoting boating accident prevention.

“Florida waterways are a destination for boating activities by residents and visitors, and those activities increase as we enter the summer months, unfortunately so do the accidents,” said Maj. Bill Holcomb, FWC Boating and Waterways Section Leader.   “FWC officers respond to far too many tragic boating accidents that could have been prevented by following a few simple boating safety guidelines.”

There were 659 reportable boating accidents in 2023 and almost 30% of those accidents were caused by a collision with a fixed object. The primary causes for these accidents were improper lookout and operator inexperience. To reduce the number of boating accidents, the FWC encourages boaters to pay attention, maintain 360-degree awareness at all times and take a boater safety course. Over 80% of operators involved in fatal boating accidents in 2023 had no formal boater education. For a summary of Florida’s regulations and available courses, visit: MyFWC.com/Boating.

“The facts are clear,” said Holcomb. “An educated boater is a safer boater and, honestly, everyone can benefit from taking a boating safety course, it makes for a safer and more enjoyable experience for everyone on board.” 

Among other tips found at MyFWC.com/Boating, boaters are encouraged to find and wear a comfortable U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket at all times while on the water. According to 2023 FWC boating accident statistics, approximately 50% of the boating deaths were due to drowning. Events can cause a boater to end up in the water unexpectedly, and a person will not have time to grab their life jacket before they find themselves in the water.

Boaters should also educate themselves on the dangers of impaired boating. Alcohol and drugs can impair a boater’s judgement, reaction time and overall ability to operate a boat safely.

“Boating while impaired by alcohol or drugs is not only dangerous but illegal,” said Holcomb. “FWC officers are always on the lookout for impaired operators and these operators will face arrest if found to be operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs.”

To report people who are operating boats dangerously, call 888-404-FWCC or text 847411 (Tip411) with keyword “FWC” and information about the violation.7