FWC Press Release

Contact: Carol Pratt (850) 488-4676

With the summer boating season just getting into full swing, 2007 continues to be a bad year for statewide boating fatalities. There have been 44 boating-related deaths so far this year – nine more than last year at this time. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is urging boaters to be extra careful this July 4 holiday, when there likely will be an increase in boat traffic.

Of the deaths, 23 are the result of drowning and most victims were men. Many of the fatal accidents resulted from inattentive operators. Alcohol impairment has also been cited as a contributing factor in some of the fatal accidents.

“There are two simple things boaters can do to dramatically improve their safety,” said Capt. Richard Moore of the FWC’s Boating and Waterways Section. “First, pay attention to where you are going and what is around you. Second, wear life jackets whenever you’re on the water. Of course, adding alcohol or drugs into the equation won’t help things.”

Most people who die in boating accidents drown, and the FWC encourages everyone to wear life jackets all the time while boating. Whether moving or anchored, develop a “life jacket habit.” While many think life jackets are hot and cumbersome, new styles are quite comfortable.

“With new life jacket styles, you have all of the life-saving benefits of the traditional life jackets without the discomfort,” Moore said. “These new life jackets – called inflatable life jackets – come in a ‘belt pack’ style, which you wear around the waist, or in the ‘suspender’ style which you wear over the shoulder, much like a pair of suspenders.”

“While we do not have a clear reason for the significant increase in boating deaths this year, we do have a clear understanding of how to lower them,” Moore said. “If boaters pay closer attention and wear their life jackets they will definitely be safer and much more likely to have a great time on the water.”