What Is the Main Cause of Florida Boating Accidents Leading to Death?

Boating accidents are very different from car accidents. Boat operators do not need to obtain a boating license before operating their vessels, while all drivers must undergo training, testing, and licensing. Car accidents usually occur on busy roads, while many boat accidents happen without any witnesses.

The most important difference, though, lies in the outcomes of these accident types. When a car is hit, its occupants will not drown if they do not receive immediate attention. In contrast, everyone involved in a boat collision — including those who avoided injury in the initial crash — could die from exposure or drowning if no one rescues them.

Boating Accidents in Florida

According to the 2021 Florida Boating Accident Statistical Report (BASR), Florida led the nation in boating accidents in 2020. Although the total number of boat crashes dropped in 2021, the state still recorded 751 reportable boat accidents. 

An accident is reportable if:

  • Someone dies
  • Someone suffers an injury that requires more than first aid
  • Someone disappears
  • A boat sinks
  • The accident causes at least $2,000 in property damage

The most common types of boat accidents in Florida in 2021 included:

  • Collisions with another vessel
  • Collisions with a fixed object
  • Flooding or swamping
  • Falling overboard
  • Capsizing
  • Grounding
  • Fire or explosion

Boat accidents in Florida caused 61 deaths and 469 non-fatal injuries in 2021. According to the BASR, 1,933 people were uninjured in boat accidents that year.

Florida Boat Accident Fatalities

According to the BASR, Florida had 60 fatal boat accidents in 2021. The most common reason for these fatal accidents was “Other.” Over one-third of Florida boating accidents listed this cause.

The second-most common causes included:

  • Operator inexperience (10% of fatal accidents)
  • Speeding (10% of fatal accidents)
  • Distracted boating or improper lookout (10% of fatal accidents)

There are a few reasons “Other” is listed as the main cause of Florida boating accidents. First, many boating accidents have no witnesses. As a result, the investigating agency has no way to determine the cause of the accident.

Second, forensic analysis of boating accident victims might point to a possible cause but not a definitive one. For example, according to the BASR, 23% of boating accident victims had drugs or alcohol in their systems. However, the authorities could only definitively blame two crashes, or roughly 3.3%, on boating under the influence.

Fortunately, the U.S. Coast Guard provides some insight into this matter. In its annual Recreational Boating Statistics report, the organization posited the actual top reason for fatal boat accidents.

Similar to the BASR, the U.S. Coast Guard report cited operator inexperience, speeding, and distracted boating/improper lookout as three of the top five causes of fatal boat accidents in the U.S. in 20201. But instead of listing “other,” the report listed the top two causes as:

Impaired Boating

In Florida, authorities can issue a citation for boating under the influence if:

  • The boat operator has a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or higher; or
  • The officer observes that the boater’s ability to operate the boat is impaired.

Drugs and alcohol can interfere with a driver’s judgment and decision-making abilities, with some people engaging in more risky behavior while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Intoxicants can also make a boat operator drowsy or jittery.

Hazardous Waters

Hazardous waters include areas with large waves, high winds, and underwater obstacles. These conditions can capsize or damage a vessel, making it impossible for even the most experienced boater to save it.

Wrongful Death Compensation After Fatal Boating Accidents in Florida

Florida does not require boaters to carry liability insurance. When a boater is killed due to someone else’s negligent acts, the surviving family should consult a personal injury attorney to identify any possible sources of wrongful death compensation.

Contact Our Boating Accident Law Firm – Lopez Accident Injury Attorneys

Contact a St. Petersburg boating accident lawyer at Lopez Accident Injury Attorneys and schedule a free case review today.

Lopez Accident Injury Attorneys

700 7th Ave N Suite B
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
(727) 933-0015