For most people, a Florida vacation means one thing: a chance to be on or near the water. Whether you prefer pontooning around a lake or a deep-sea fishing trip, boating and Florida go hand in hand.
Florida’s watercraft owners often tap into the tourism industry as a source of supplemental income. But as with every business venture, boat charters carry risks. Boating accidents are all too real and can have devastating consequences.
To better protect yourself and your charter or rental business, you should be aware of typical patterns in Florida boat accidents. This article also contains valuable tips for lowering your risks and reducing your potential liability when tourism fun goes awry.
Common Boating Accident Statistics in Florida
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission publishes annual data on watercraft accidents that occur throughout the state. Unsurprisingly, Florida had more recreational accidents than any other state in 2019. There were at least 723 Florida boating mishaps that caused a minimum of $2,000 in damage in 2019.
As a tourism-based rental and charter owner, you can learn valuable information from this data. For example, the following types of common recreational boating accidents present an opportunity for avoiding risky situations. Proactive management can go a long way in reducing the likelihood of injuries, damage, or death.
Open Motorboat Accidents Are Most Common
It’s not shocking for Miami-area charter owners to learn that open motorboats have the most common involvement in boating accidents. In 2019, there were 393 such accidents in Florida.
Open motorboats are a popular tourism rental because vacationers can use them for fishing offshore or recreational cruising among the many channels, inlets, and canals. However, their power can cause inexperienced operators issues. Additionally, tourists can get in trouble when they take an open motorboat too far out from shore.
If you rent any type of watercraft to tourists, it’s vital that you’re aware of the risks. After open motorboats, the most common vessels involved in Florida boating accidents are, in descending order:
- Personal watercraft
- Cabin motorboats
- Pontoon boats
While pontoon rentals are safer due to their restricted areas and speed, this doesn’t mean they’re without risks. Personal watercraft like Jet Skis and WaveRunners cause even more problems because of their small size, high power and acceleration rates, and tendency to flip over or catch fire. Most personal watercraft also have limited safety features available and don’t include brakes. People can rent them in many locations at low prices, which puts a number of inexperienced riders on the water. A lack of familiarity with their unique controls can also lead to collisions and other accidents.
Distracted Boating Is a Problem
According to the statistical report, the most common cause of Florida watercraft accidents was no proper lookout or inattention. Just like distracted driving is an affliction on roadways everywhere, distracted boating can lead to serious accidents and injuries.
Tourists rent or charter a boat for a day of fun in the sun. However, they must be informed that boating is a serious task that requires constant attention. The operator must be aware of their surroundings at all times.
Likewise, inexperienced operators are the second most common cause of Florida boating accidents. Unprepared drivers cause more vessel accidents in Florida every year than weather and equipment failures. Before you rent or charter your equipment, ensure you find someone who takes the role of captain seriously.
Florida Boating Accidents Most Likely Occur During Cruising
If distracted and inexperienced operators are most likely to cause Florida boating accidents, then when are they most likely to happen? Even though there are more opportunities for collisions when watercraft are near docks or maneuvering within marinas, cruising is most dangerous.
The 479 accidents recorded while cruising show that operators tend to get into trouble once out on the water. It’s possible drivers relax once they clear the piers and stop paying the necessary amount of attention to operating the watercraft. It’s also a possibility that open water causes operators to become disoriented, panicked, or unable to fully control the vessel.
Men Are Much More Likely to Be Driving at the Time of Boating Accidents
A full 85% of reported Florida boating accidents happened while a man was at the helm. Other interesting crash stats include nearly half of operators involved in crashes having some prior boater education. More than half had at least 100 hours of vessel-operating experience. Finally, the following three age groups each represent approximately 30% of all Florida boating accidents: 22-35, 36-50, and 51+-year-old operators.
Types of Boating Injuries From Watercraft Accidents
Injuries from Florida boating accidents can range from bumps and bruises all the way to drownings. In 2019, there were 61 watercraft accidents where someone fell overboard. The currents off of Miami are swift, and even a strong swimmer can succumb quickly. The risk heightens if the passenger is drinking or not wearing a floatation device. Falls overboard were the number one cause of Florida boating accident deaths in 2019.
Operating a watercraft in busy areas also puts bystanders at risk. It’s not just manatees that suffer from propeller strikes in South Florida channels. Whether tourists or locals, swimmers can suffer grievous cuts, lacerations, and broken bones if a propeller strikes them. Warning passengers about floating near the prop can prevent unnecessary health risks.
The wet surfaces of a vessel make them risky common boating injuries like slips and falls. Even if the charter is operating flawlessly, a tourist outing can end poorly if a passenger falls and hits their head. Neck and back injuries, as well as broken bones and bruises, can result from a slip on board.
Tips to Avoid Common Boating Accidents and Injuries
Before chartering or renting to tourists, have a plan to cover boating safety rules and provide boating and water safety tips to your clients. A handy form or booklet containing essential advice, such as wearing floatation devices at all times, will help your business appear more professional. It can also reduce your liability should the worst occur.
Boating safety tips in Florida include reminding all potential operators about not drinking while boating. Additionally, depending on the type of watercraft you offer, you may limit drivers to those with boater training or licensure. While Florida doesn’t have a boating license, the state does require certain operators to satisfy boating safety education requirements. Tourists may also obtain a temporary certificate to operate a water vessel while visiting Florida. Though licensed or experienced boaters are involved in accidents, matching the vessel to the driver’s skill level can help provide a safe experience for everyone.
Meet With Skilled Florida Boating and Personal Injury Attorneys
In South Florida, things can change quickly on the open water. Instead of waiting for trouble to hit your charter or boat rental business, contact a personal injury lawyer today. The experienced professionals at GED Lawyers can review your policies and procedures and offer advice to make your operations safer.
Lowering your risk now is more cost-effective than waiting until after an accident occurs. The team of attorneys at GED Lawyers has experience dealing with all types of South Florida boating accident claims. We can offer your business the knowledge we have accumulated from those cases. No boating trip can ever be completely safe, but our boating safety tips can help your company immediately lower its risk!