44% of Florida boating accidents in 2020 were due to operator error, stats show

FWC said there were 16% more incidents last year than in 2019

File photo of FWC investigating a boating accident.

Of 836 boating accidents in Florida last year, 402 involved collisions and 44% of those were due to the operator’s inattention or failing to maintain a proper lookout, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s 2020 statistical report.

“A leading contributor to boating accidents is the operator’s inattention or failure to maintain a proper lookout,” said Lt. Seth Wagner of FWC’s Boating and Waterways Section. “Many operators believe they are looking around but they are not recognizing potential hazards or are distracted by dividing their attention between things like electronic devices or other occupants in the boat.”

Florida had 113 more accidents than in 2019 -- a 16% increase. A total of 79 people lost their lives last year in boating accidents, 14 more than the previous year.

Since 2003, falling overboard has been the leading type of fatal accident with drowning as the leading cause of death. Of the drowning victims, 88% were not wearing a life jacket. Today’s boaters can choose from several models of light and comfortable, inflatable belt-pack or over-the-shoulder life jackets that can be worn while fishing or enjoying the sun. Events can happen quickly and unexpectedly, and boaters might not have time to grab their life jacket before finding themselves in the water. The message is clear, “Life Jackets Save Lives.”

The FWC is responsible for reviewing, analyzing and compiling boating accident data for the state. Its statistical report details boating accidents and their causes. FWC officers want to help keep Florida’s beautiful waterways a safe place to boat.

For a copy of the 2020 Boating Accident Statistical Report, visit MyFWC.com and select “Boating,” “Safety & Education” then “Recreational Boating Accidents.”