FWC News Release

Contacts: Brian Rehwinkel (850) 410-0656, ext. 17146 or
Carol Pratt (850) 488-4676

Although the Labor Day holiday is associated with the traditional end of summer, recreational boating in Florida and the need to practice safe boating is always in season. With more than 50 boating fatalities in Florida so far this year, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is urging boaters to be extra careful this Labor Day weekend.

Many Floridians take to the water during extended holiday weekends, increasing the chances of boating accidents. Boating accidents usually are caused by inattentiveness by the operator. More than half of this year’s deaths were attributed to drowning and may have been avoided if the victims had been wearing life jackets.

“The combination of paying better attention and wearing life jackets all the time while on the water would result in fewer injuries and deaths each year,” said Capt. Richard Moore of the FWC’s Boating and Waterways Section.

Most boating accident fatalities were men and most accidents involved a single vessel. Of the 52 deaths this year, 27 were due to drowning.

“It is not uncommon for young, healthy men to drown,” Moore said. “No one expects to fall overboard – that is why it is important to have a life jacket on, whether you are anchored or under way.”

There are a variety of life jackets available to boaters. New styles are much smaller, lighter and more comfortable to wear than the traditional vest life jacket. One new style, the “belt pack,” is worn around the waist. A “suspender” style also is available. These types of life jackets are inflatable and some models activate automatically if the wearer falls into the water.

In anticipation of heavy boat traffic this weekend, FWC will have an increased presence to promote boating safety and strictly enforce boating-under-the-influence laws.