FWC News Release
Contact: Capt. Richard Moore or Brian Rehwinkel 850-488-5600

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) reports that a recent Mason-Dixon poll shows strong support among Floridians for mandatory boating safety education for motorboat operators of all ages. The poll also indicated strong support for a requirement for children less than 13 years of age to wear life jackets.

Florida law now requires boat operators 21 years of age and younger to successfully complete a boating safety education course in order to operate on Florida waters. National research has shown that having motorboat operators of all ages take a basic boating safety course can reduce annual fatality numbers by approximately 25 percent. In Florida, that would equate to 15 to 20 lives saved each year.

Currently, only children less than 6 years of age are required to wear life jackets on vessels under 26 feet long in Florida. Increasing the age requirement to less than 13 years of age would enhance uniformity between state and federal age requirements for life jacket wear and would enhance the safety of children boating on state waterways.

Previous surveys have shown broad support from boaters on these topics, and several boating organizations, including some who represent those who make their living in boating, have stepped forward in support.

The FWC commissioned the poll to gauge public support for two issues it plans to submit to the Florida Legislature during this year’s session. The FWC proposes requirements that all boaters take a boating safety course over an 11-year phase-in period and children less than 13 years old wear life jackets while on vessels under 26 feet in length. These proposals will require approval by the legislature and governor.

The poll was conducted during the week of Nov. 17 among registered voters.