Boating accidents, deaths down in 2018

Florida recorded 628 boating accidents in 2018, down 18 percent from a year earlier, according to a new report released by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Also, the state had 59 boating-related deaths, down from 67 in 2017.

People falling overboard continued to be the leading type of fatal accident, contributing to 18 deaths last year, according to the annual report. Drowning was the leading cause of death, accounting for 29 of the 59 deaths.

Bekah Nelson of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said most accidents and injuries could be prevented if boaters pay attention to their surroundings and use basic safety measures, especially as Florida’s waterways get busier.

“Once the weather gets great and it’s nice and sunny and heats up, a lot more people go out and start boating,” Nelson said. “Florida is the boating capital of the world. So, it’s definitely a very popular boating area. We want people to have fun, but we also want them to be safe.”

Nearly 30 percent of the 2018 accidents involved collisions between vessels.

“We encourage people to always wear their personal flotation device, or their life jacket, and to maintain a proper lookout when they are driving their vessel,” Nelson said. “That just means to be aware of their surroundings and to maintain a 360-degree lookout. If you are planning to have a few drinks while you are out on the boat, just plan to have a sober boater.”

The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.