The boating accident death of Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez has made international news and cast a black shadow over Major League Baseball for days after its occurrence. Unfortunately, as many news outlets have reported, it is nowhere near the first deadly boating accident to occur in Florida — or even just on Biscayne Bay. Part of the problem is the outrageously lax boating laws that currently exist in the Sunshine State.
Florida consistently ranks as the nation’s most dangerous state for boaters. As of 2015, the state had by far the most boating accidents, coming in first with 671 reported accidents. California was a very distant second, with 369. No other state even exceeded 200. Florida also reported 52 total deaths in nine fatal accidents, both of which were the largest figures in the country in 2015.
What makes Florida so dangerous for boaters?
Our state has miles and miles of coastline, and as a result plenty of people in the state own and operate vessels. There are 889,350 registered watercrafts in Florida, far more than in any other state. Yet, there are also more than 800,000 boats registered in Minnesota and more than 700,000 in Michigan and California, but each of those states have smaller numbers of accidents and fatalities compared to Florida.
The primary issue seems to be the regulation and training of boaters in the state. Many reports indicate that Florida boaters are undertrained (or completely untrained), have few regulations keeping them in check and are more often found to be intoxicated at the wheel than boaters in any other state.
A report from the Miami New Times indicated that almost two-thirds of the boating accidents in Florida in 2013 were caused by people who did not have any training at all. No one born before 1988 is required to undergo training for boats, and there is no minimum age requirement for piloting boats in the state. Additionally, tickets are rarely handed out for boating while intoxicated.
This is a problem that will need to be addressed if we are ever to see boating accident figures decrease in the state. The next Jose Fernandez incident could be closer than we want to believe.
For more information on your legal options if you are injured in a Florida boating accident, call on a trusted Bradenton personal injury attorney with Shapiro, Goldman, Babboni & Walsh.