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During Safe Boating Week, FWC Emphasizes Life Jackets To Help Lower Accidents, Deaths

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Tim Donovan
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

This week is National Safe Boating Week, and with Florida wildlife officials expecting increased turnout on the water for the Memorial Day weekend, they’re hoping boaters will wear life jackets.

Florida may have experienced a three percent decrease in the number of boating accidents in 2016. But, compared to 2015, there was a 22 percent increase in fatalities. Captain Tom Shipp is with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Boating and Waterways Section. He says many of these boating accidents are preventable.

“Looking at statistics, over half of our fatalities each year are from people that drown where they fell overboard or their vessel may have sunk out from underneath them, but it wasn’t that they died from trauma related to an accident,” said Shipp. “They just ended up in the water unprepared. And, so a big part of National Safe Boating Week is the encouragement to wear your life jacket at all times when you’re on the water.”

Shipp says Florida boaters can also avoid a lot of accidents by just staying alert.

“When you look at just the reportable accidents alone, a large number of them are due to either operator inattention or not keeping a proper lookout,” he added. “That’s why we have a campaign to stand 360 degrees, while you’re on a boat—whether you’re the operator or the occupant, you may see something coming or about to happen that the operator may not see.”

Of the more than 700 boating accidents reported last year, 67 resulted in fatalities. 70 percent of boating operators in the fatal accidents also had no formal boater education. So, Shipp says taking a safety class can really help.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner .

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