As a Miramar boating accident attorney, I know Florida typically leads the nation in sheer number of boating accidents, avoidable tragedies that affect both our own citizens and our tourists. That’s why I was pleased to see an Oct. 16 article in the Tallahassee Democrat saying that younger boaters in Florida will soon be required to pass a safety course before they can hit the water. The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, which is responsible for regulating recreational boating in our state, made the rule effective Jan. 1, 2010. The FWC also lowered the threshold for an enhanced penalty for boating under the influence to match the DUI threshold of 0.15%.
Under the new requirement, any boater 21 or younger must take an approved safety course to legally operate a boat. They then have 90 days to submit their certificates of completion to receive the boating safety ID card. The requirement expands on an existing boating safety course requirement that applies to people who have committed certain boating infractions or crimes. It also puts Florida in the company of in 41 other states that require boating safety education for at least some boaters, including neighboring Georgia and South Carolina. The Democrat quoted a FWC official saying that boating registrations are increasing in Florida, adding to about a million registered vessels in the state and increasing the need for safety training.
As a Hallandale Beach boating accident lawyer, I’m very pleased that the FWC has taken this step, although I would prefer that the requirement apply to boaters of all ages. The FWC’s accident statistics for 2008, the most recent report available, said that 73% of all boating accidents and 93% of fatal accidents involved boat operators with no boating education. Those statistics make a strong case that training matters. Furthermore, the majority of boats involved in accidents are motor vehicles just like cars and trucks -- but often even bigger. Most of us wouldn’t dream of allowing unlicensed, untrained drivers on the roads, particularly child drivers. The same should be true on the water, where there are no marked lanes and boat operators may be more likely to drink.