As a lifelong resident of Florida, and an attorney, I realize boating accidents are far too common in Florida. Many times an accident with a serious injury or death could have been avoided if simple safety precautions had been followed. Before operating a boat or watercraft, or allowing someone to operate your boat or watercraft, it is important to make sure an operator has sufficient knowledge about the safe operation of the watercraft, is sober, and that there is proper safety equipment on board in the event of an emergency.
While Florida law only requires those under 21 years old operating a boat on their own to take a boating safety course, it is always the safest policy to ensure that anyone who intends to operate a watercraft attend a safety course. The vast majority of boating related fatalities in Florida occurred with a boat operator that had never taken a boater safety course. This will familiarize the operator with the rules of the water and, hopefully, prepare them for an emergency.
To take safety to the next level, a boater should take the following precautions before leaving the dock:
First: Check the weather. Avoid predicable inclement weather, but also be aware of all possible weather changes for the time period that you intend to be on the water. Florida weather changes very rapidly so you should be prepared for changing weather conditions and you should have an operable 2 way radio on board to ensure you can call for help in the event of an emergency. Sometimes, simple communication can be the difference between life and death.
Second: Go over a thorough pre-departure checklist to ensure all safety and communication equipment is on board and that all communication devices are in working condition.
Third: Florida Law requires life jackets be available for everyone on board, including infants, toddlers and young children. There are life jackets available for all ages of children and for all sizes of adults. Be sure the boat is equipped with the appropriate number and sizes of life jackets. Try not to boat alone. There is safety in numbers.
Finally: NEVER boat while under the influence of alcohol. In Florida, the same DUI laws apply to an intoxicated boater as do to the driver of a car who is driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
If you or someone you know has been injured or died in a boating accident, call Diaco Law at 888-SOS-FIRM or you can reach the attorneys of Diaco Law online at Diacolaw.com. Remember to be safe while boating.