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FL Ranks First In Nation For Boating Fatalities

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A new report released by the U.S. Coast Guard says more Floridians are involved in boating accidents than anywhere else in the nation.

There were close to 700 accidents and 70 deaths on boats last year statewide.  

Miami-Dade County ranked first in the state with 72 accidents and seven deaths. Pinellas County was third, with 49 accidents and four deaths.

Captain Tom Shipp with Florida Fish & WildLife said that while Florida’s waterways aren’t really any more dangerous than elsewhere in the country, a  large population and warm weather increase the chance of accidents.

"A lot of it has to do with it's a high traffic area; there's a lot more people there, so there's a lot more boats. And being Florida, there's a year round boating season,” Shipp said.

Florida also has more registered vessels than any other state, said Rachel Johnson, executive director of the National Safe Boating Council, and drinking caused more accidents that any other factor.

Credit Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

“Leave the alcohol back at the pier,” Johnson said. “Alcohol was the number one contributing factor for boating accidents last year. Leave that alcohol for when you’re home safely at the end of the day.”

Drowning was most often the cause of death in fatal accidents and 84 percent of those who died were not wearing life jackets.  Life jackets approved by the Coast Guard must be on board for all passengers, but adults don't have to wear them.

Nationwide, there were 4,064 accidents and 610 deaths on boats.

The report, which is published annually, comes just in time for National Safe Boating Week, which kicks off this weekend (May 16-22). The National Safe Boating Council will also kick off its Wear It! campaign promoting safe boating and life jackets.

Additionally, Coast Guardsmen will unveil a new smart phone app on Saturday for Search and Rescue called CG Mobile.

Features of the app include: state boating information; a safety equipment checklist; free boating safety check requests; navigation rules; float plans; and calling features to report pollution or suspicious activity. When location services are enabled, users can receive the latest weather reports from the closest National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather buoys as well as report the location of a hazard on the water.

The app also features an Emergency Assistance button which, with locations services enabled, will call the closest Coast Guard command center.

Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg will hold an open house Saturday for the community where they will offer tours of watercraft and present the app. 

If you go:

WHO:  Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg.

WHAT:  The objective of the open house is to showcase the Coast Guard's missions for the local community. Coast Guardsmen will be educating the public about what the Coast Guard does while the public has the opportunity to tour Coast Guard cutters, boats and aircraft.  In addition, the Coast Guard will unveil a new smart phone app, CG Mobile, for Search and Rescue.

WHEN:  Saturday, May 16 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

WHERE:  600 8th Ave. SE, St. Petersburg, Florida, North Moorings entrance.

Credit U.S. Coast Guard. 2014 Recreational Boating Statistics.
Credit U.S. Coast Guard. 2014 Recreational Boating Statistics.