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Increase in boating fatalities concerns FWC

By Staff | Aug 24, 2010

Many Florida boaters know the importance of wearing a life jacket and abiding by the navigation rules. However, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) emphasizes the importance of making safe, smart decisions when out of the boat as well.

“When people enter the water, they put themselves at risk,” said Capt. Carol Keyser of the FWC’s Boating and Waterways Section. “Swimming, diving, tubing and other activities in the water can be fun, but need to be done safely.”

FWC statistics show the current number of boating accidents this year is 50, up four from this time last year. And, a recent alarming trend is reflected in those statistics.

“In the past three months, there have been three drownings that occurred when people jumped into the water off of moving boats,” Keyser said.  “Jumping off a moving vessel and into the water is not like jumping into a pool,” she added. “There often are dangers hidden under the surface of the water or the water may be shallower or deeper than expected.”

Boaters may overestimate their swimming abilities and may find it difficult to get back onboard a vessel from the water. Another danger comes when they attempt to swim or dive in high-traffic areas.

“Boaters should know their surroundings before getting in the water,” Keyser said. “They should exit the boat slowly and make sure there are no dangerous objects or boats nearby.”

Alcohol use, which is always a concern for law enforcement, is suspected to have played a role in several of the recent fatalities.

“Operating a vessel or engaging in other waterborne activities while drinking is just not a smart idea,” Keyser said. “There is such a variety of water-related activities available in Florida. We want residents and visitors to have fun, but we want them to make good decisions while doing so.”

 For more information on boating safety, call Capt. Carol Keyser at 850-488-5600, or go to MyFWC.com/Boating or www.wearitflorida.com.