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Safe Boating on Memorial Day Weekend and Beyond

Recently, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), released its 2020 Boating Accident Statistical Report. Miami-Dade County ranked second for the highest boating accident rate. Monroe County ranked first. In general, the month of May also saw the highest rate of boating accidents of the year. The report stated that the main cause of the boating accidents was failure to keep a proper lookout, and the most common type of accident was collision with another vessel. Since Florida leads the United States in the number of registered vessels (985,005 in 2020), it is critical that mariners employ best practices when out on the water, in particular, this upcoming long weekend.

Number of boating accidents by county for the year 2020. Data: myfWC.com

What can you do to be a safer boater?

There are many simple steps one can take to ensure an enjoyable and safe time out on the water:

  • Making certain that the vessel is regularly serviced
  • Ensuring plenty of water, food, and snacks for all passengers
  • Complying with personal floatation device (PFD) requirements and checking that there is one on board for every person

    Various types of personal floatation devices. Image: hsseworld.com

  • The designated boat driver remains sober while operating the vessel
  • The designated boat driver assigns at least one other passenger to serve as their lookout
  • The boat has a fire extinguisher, flares, throw ring, working VHF radio and other safety equipment on board
  • Keep hard copy local nautical charts on board as a backup for GPS/chartplotter error or failure
  • The designated boat operator utilizes polarized sunglasses and takes extra caution when driving in shallow and/or unfamiliar areas
  • When available, use mooring buoys to secure your boat instead of dropping anchor
  • Checking the marine forecast prior to heading out, and monitoring local conditions as they change
  • Take a local boater education course to become more familiar with the rules of the road, navigation, and how to boat through sensitive habitats like seagrasses

 

All of these steps can help ensure a positive boating experience and help keep your friends and family safe while on the water. Additionally, more mindful boating can reduce physical impacts and boat groundings in seagrasses and on coral reefs, two of Miami-Dade County’s most valuable ecosystems, as well as create a safer environment for our local wildlife, such as manatees.

Stay safe and happy Memorial Day Weekend!