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Florida Tops Lists of States in Boating Accidents and Deaths

In 2014, there were 577 boat accidents in Florida—the most of any state in the U.S., according to a recent report. The number of boating-related fatalities, 67, was also the highest in the nation.

These figures are significantly above those logged by other states. New York, for example, was in second place in boating accidents, with 174. Texas saw the second-largest number of boating-related deaths, with 39.

State and other officials see multiple causes for the high numbers. Bud Stanley of the North Central Region of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, notes that the state simply has an enormous number of watercraft—nearly 900,000 registered. “The more boats you have on the water,” he observes, “the more chances you have for an accident.”

Several others point to insufficient driver’s education for boats. The lack stems not from legal requirements—a boater is required to have a safety education card, which can be gained only by completing an approved course. However, several boat club managers note that many older people fall outside the requirement, which applies only to those born in or after 1988. In addition, many tourists are without either courses or a safety card, and operate boats on Florida’s waterways freely. Finally, even after taking the course, many boat operators are not fully experienced in certain conditions on the waterways—Maralyn Coscia, manager of Gulfstream Boat Club, for example, notes that running into channel markers and capsizing boats is frequent.

In addition, boats are party sites for many people operating a boat and their passengers. Drinking and driving are not a match in boats any more than they are in cars, but many observers believe that boaters do not see a boat as a potentially dangerous vehicle.

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