How to Avoid Boating Accidents in Florida

A side view of a boat docked in the water.

With warmer weather and longer days in full swing, it’s no surprise that people are taking to the water on their boats. Florida is considered the boating capital of the world, with several lakes, beaches, and off-shore destinations that are a boater’s dream. However, the popularity of boating in Florida also means more boating accidents.

If you plan on boating with family and friends this summer, it’s essential to practice boating safety. Our Tampa boating accident attorney team shares Florida boating safety tips.

What causes the most boating accidents in Florida?

Avoiding boating accidents can help save lives and the financial struggles that come with a boat crash. Unfortunately, not all boaters are as careful as they should be. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), here are the main boating accident causes:

  • Inattention
  • Operator inexperience
  • Machinery failure
  • Excessive speed
  • Recklessness
  • Weather
  • Hazardous water
  • Alcohol or drug use

By far, the leading cause of boating accidents is failure to pay attention or becoming distracted by electronic devices or passengers. Of all the boat collisions in 2020, the FWC reported that 44% of these accidents were connected to operator inattention.

What is the number one cause of boating deaths in Florida?

The FWC statistics on boating fatalities show that the leading accident type linked to boating deaths is falling overboard. Other accidents include collisions with other vessels, capsizing, and collisions with fixed objects. The primary cause of death is drowning at 55%, trauma at 27%, and other injuries at 18%. In the majority of boating fatalities, the boat was cruising at the time of the accident.

What are tips for preventing boating accidents?

When it comes to preventing boat crash Florida accidents, following safety procedures is key. Learning appropriate boating safety tips can help you avoid an accident.

1. Always have appropriate safety gear

As a boat owner or operator, it’s crucial to have the right safety gear on board the vessel at all times, including:

  • Life jackets
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Flashlights
  • Rope
  • Whistle
  • First aid kit

Florida law requires that you have an approved personal flotation device (PFD) for every person on board your boat. Before heading out on the water, ensure that you have the appropriate number of life jackets that fit you and your passengers.

2. Pay attention

While paying attention might sound like common sense, inattention is the leading cause of all boating accidents. Distracted boat operators can easily miss hazards that lead to a boat crash. If you’re actively operating your vessel, give it just as much attention as you would your car.

3. Avoid drinking

Operating a boat while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs is extremely dangerous and puts you and all others on board at risk. Avoid drinking if you plan to go boating or designate a sober person or two to operate the vessel.

4. Stay on top of the weather

Weather can change quickly and cause hazardous conditions for boaters. Before heading out, check the forecast and stay on top of it during your excursion. If a storm or windy weather is heading your way, make sure you have enough time to get back to shore safely.

5. Get appropriate training

Although Florida does not require people to get formal boat training, an educational boating course will teach you safety basics, how to properly operate your boat, and what to do if an accident does occur.

6. Don’t speed

Going too fast is one of the ways boat operators lose control of the vessel. Always maintain an appropriate speed that will allow you to make quick decisions if a hazard suddenly presents itself.

7. Follow capacity restrictions

Having too many people on your boat can create unsafe conditions that may cause a person to go overboard or make the boat difficult to operate. Also, it’s likely you won’t have enough life jackets for everyone on the vessel if you go over the maximum capacity.

8. Know the requirements for children on board

According to Florida law, all children under six years of age must wear a personal flotation device at all times while the boat is underway. These devices must be approved by the United States Coast Guard (USCG). You must ensure that you have the right life vests for any kids on your boat.

9. Don’t be afraid to enforce the rules

While you want everybody to have a good time, don’t hesitate to enforce boating rules if you notice passengers are creating unsafe conditions on the vessel. It’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to boating.

Schedule a free consultation with a Tampa boating accident lawyer

A Lady Justice statue, a stack of books, and a gavel on a Tampa boating accident attorney's desk.

If you were hurt in a boating accident, you may qualify to claim compensation for your medical bills, suffering, and other losses. Contact our team to schedule a no-obligation evaluation of your case. We’ll fight for the compensation you deserve.


Boating Fatalities. (2021).

Boating Regulations. (2022).

FLA. STAT. § 327.50 (2019)

FWC Releases 2020 Boating Accident Statistical Report. (2021). 

Reportable Boating Accidents. (2021).

The information contained herein is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.

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