The boating industry is launching a full campaign on behalf of National Safe Boating Week, with groups issuing safety tips, videos and initiatives designed to bring awareness.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission launched a series of videos featuring testimony from people who had close calls or dealt with tragedy when out on the water without a personal flotation device.
Here’s one from Tony, who had been out fishing with his 10-year-old son Honor when they were tossed out of the boat without PFDs and narrowly escaped drowning.
“It could’ve been avoided by simply having a life jacket on,” Tony says in the video. “I’ve been on the water all my life … and we’ve never had a boating accident. It’s not that you feel like you’re bulletproof, you just feel like it won’t happen to you.”
“Our officers are committed to keeping people as safe as possible, but we need the public’s help,” Maj. Rob Rowe, leader of the FWC’s Boating and Waterways Section, in a statement. “We want to reach as many boaters as we can to help them understand that most boating accidents are preventable.”
The FWC’s 2017 Boating Accident Statistical Report indicates there were 766 reportable boating accidents in Florida last year, resulting in 67 fatalities.
This represents a 7 percent increase in the number of accidents, but the same number of fatalities as compared to 2016. The leading cause attributed to boating accidents in 2017 was the operator's inattention or lack of a proper lookout (24 percent). Falls overboard has been the leading type of fatal accident since 2003, with drowning as the leading cause of death.
“A lot of people say they don’t wear life jackets because they are uncomfortable,” said Rowe. “But with newer inflatable models that are belt packs or suspenders, you hardly know you’re wearing one. FWC officers wear inflatable life jackets all the time while on the water.”
Employees at Nautical Ventures wore life jackets to work on Friday to demonstrate their comfort and versatility on Wear Your Life Jacket to Work Day.
The annual event, hosted by the National Safe Boating Council serves as a fun, educational element just prior to National Safe Boating Week, May 19-25, the official launch of the 2018 Safe Boating Campaign.
The BoatUS Foundation and Sea Tow Foundation both offered tips for boaters.
BoatUS recommended that boaters open up their vessels for U.S. Coast Guard safety checks, that boaters take safety courses, and to give a safety talk before bringing friends on the water.
Sea Tow issued a list of recommendations that included wearing life jackets, taking boating safety classes, designating a sober captain, carrying an emergency beacon, using the engine cut-off switch, and having a float plan.