Florida more boats registered than any other state, with close to one million vessels including houseboats, sailboats, powerboats, airboat, canoes and kayaks. On top of that, there are over 300,000 unregistered boats on Florida waterways. Florida’s marine industry, not surprisingly,l is the largest in the country.
Unfortunately, the state has led the nation for several years now in boating-related deaths and injuries with 67 people having died in Florida waterways in 2011. That was a 27 percent increase from 2008, when 54 boaters died. During that time, boating injuries increased 12 percent, going from 386 in 2008 to 431 in 2011. Nationwide, 758 people died in boating accidents and 3,081 people were injured in 2011.
Despite the real problem, little action has not been taken by lawmakers because of lobbying by the $10.3 billion Florida boating industry has put on the pressure to keep safety regulations to a minimum. Critics say that safety education and use of safety equipment can prevent the dozens of fatalities and hundreds of injuries that take place every year.
At present, Florida only required boater education for those born on or after January 1, 1988, which is a rather small percentage of today’s boaters. In some states, such as Connecticut, Alabama, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and New Jersey, all boaters are required to take safety courses. Several other states have passed laws moving in that direction.
The boating industry, though, has had an influence on the lack of regulation in Florida and elsewhere. The industry, it is said, fears that additional rules will discourage boating, meaning loss of jobs and economic activity. Unfortunately, this thinking continues to come at the cost of lives.
Source: Florida Center For Investigative Reporting, “Florida Leads Nations in Boating Deaths,” Mc Nelly Torres, April 30, 2013.