TAMPA, Fla. - With Memorial Day weekend a few days away, Bay Area officials are preparing for thousands of boats to hit the water.
This week is also National Safe Boating Week. Here in Florida, there are one million boats registered in the state. Officials said it makes it all the more important to stay alert while heading out on the water this weekend.
Local officials said boating accidents are at an all-time high -- some of the highest numbers they’ve seen in the past decade. Florida earned the number one spot for boating accidents in the U.S. Last year, there were a total of 836.
Officials have also seen the number of fatalities continue to rise. In 2020, they saw nearly 80 – which is 14 more than the year before. Many of these accidents and deaths end up happening during the month of May as it ranks in the top months for accidents.
Unfortunately, most of the time, those accidents happen because people just are not paying attention.
Boating fatalities by year in Florida, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission:
2020 - 79 deaths
2019 - 65 deaths
2018 - 59 deaths
Months with most accidents (2020): March, July, May, November
FWC reports three Bay Area counties landed in the top 10 for number of boating accidents: Pinellas landed in the fourth spot while Manatee and Sarasota counties ranked 9th and 10th respectively.
Law enforcement officials said they do not want those statistics to continue to rise. This week, they are reminding boat operators to stay on guard, pay attention to their surroundings, and, of course, always have a life jacket in case the unexpected happens.
Another piece of advice that officials are recommending -- especially for novice boat operators -- is to take a boating education class. They said most drivers have never done that and they’re inexperienced, which leads to accidents.
For more resources on boating in Florida, head over to FWC’s website.