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FWC spreads word about safe boating practices

By Staff | May 22, 2020

PHOTOS PROVIDED A Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officer conducts a boat safety check.

With boating being one of the most popular forms of social distancing around Southwest Florida, local officials highlighted the importance of good practice on the waters, as this is National Boating Safety Week.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conser-vation Commission is encouraging boaters to wear life jackets, maintain 360-degree awareness and know the dangers, and penalties, for operating a vessel while impaired. Officials also urged boaters to check in with their managing agency for any additional outdoor activity restrictions and to be sure their local area is open before heading out, as the state begins to re-open in response to COVID-19.

“National Boating Safety Week is May 16-22 and we want to spread the word about boating safety to those enjoying Florida’s year-round boating season,” said Maj. Rob Rowe, FWC’s Boating and Waterways section leader, in a statement. “Reminding people to be safe and slow down is our top priority. Nothing can ruin a fun day and memorable experience on the water faster than a boating accident.”

The FWC just released its 2019 Boating Accident Statistical Report, which shows Lee County as No. 4 in the state when it comes to accidents. The county also saw the most fatal injuries in the state last year due to boating accidents by county.

In 2019, there were nine fatal accidents, 20 accidents with injury and 18 without injury.

A FWC crew patrolling stat waters.

The report showed that a majority of incidents involve open motorboats, cabin motorboats and personal watercrafts.

FWC showed that primary cause of the accidents was inattentiveness by the operator. Accidents in high numbers were also caused by excessive speed, operator inexperience and alcohol use.

A majority of incidents included collisions with other vessels or a fixed object, the report showed.

“Life-changing tragedies often happen because individuals choose to operate a boat or drive a car while impaired. Those tragedies are preventable,” said Rowe. “FWC law enforcement officers will be doing their part to ensure the safety of Florida’s recreational boaters.”

Education is your No. 1 resource out on the water, officials said.

The agency’s 2019 data shows that 57 percent of those involved in accidents had no boater education and that 80 percent of accidents with fatalities involved an operator with no boater education.

For a list of boating safety courses, more boating tips and educational information, visit www.myfwc.com/boating.

To report operators who are boating dangerously, call 888-404-FWCC (3922) or text Tip@MyFWC.com.

More information can be found by visiting MyFWC.com/Boating.