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FWC Kicks Off 2024 National Safe Boating Week

Florida and boating go hand in hand. Here's an annual reminder to enjoy the water safely this year.

FWC Kicks Off 2024 National Safe Boating Week
A boat motors down a canal in Pompano Beach, Fla. (Shutterstock image)

It's a tragic irony that the annual National Safe Boating Week is kicking off the summer boating season, something that never really ends in Florida but often sees an unofficial Memorial Day weekend beginning in other parts of the country, after a recent fatality in a boating related incident in southeastern Florida.

That happened a few days ago on May 11 when Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) officers were notified of a boating incident in Biscayne Bay near Nixon Beach Sandbar in Miami-Dade County according to a news release from FWC. The agency noted that preliminary information from the Mother's Day weekend loss of life indicates that Ella Adler of Miami Beach was waterskiing when she reportedly fell in the water while being towed. FWC says that Adler was struck by another vessel and died from her injuries. The vessel that struck Adler did not stop, and a vessel of interest has been identified by authorities as they continue to investigate. 

The deadly incident helps underscore the importance of the 2024 National Safe Boating Week, running this year from May 18-24 nationwide. An annual campaign put on by the Safe Boating Campaign, the event is a week of global awareness that highlights efforts encouraging boaters to make the most of their boating adventure by being responsible.

“Our goal is to remind boaters that a safe boating experience on the water begins and ends with safe boating decisions,” said a news release statement from Peg Phillips, executive director of the National Safe Boating Council, a nonprofit dedicated to helping create a safe boating experience for all boaters and the lead organization of the Safe Boating Campaign.

“This National Safe Boating Week, be a responsible boater by preparing for the unexpected. Set a positive boating example for all to see by inspecting your safety gear, using an engine cut-off switch, filing a float plan, and always wearing a life jacket,” Phillips added.

The week underscores the need for responsible use of Florida's waterways against the tragic backdrop of the fatal incident in Biscayne Bay. It's also a reminder according to FWC for the Sunshine State's boaters to prioritize safety at the top of the llist as they enjoy recreational boating and use the state's freshwater and saltwater waterways. 

With Florida being recognized as “The Boating Capital of the World," FWC notes that the state leads the nation with over 1 million registered vessels across the state from the Panhandle to the Keys. With so many boats out on the water in Florida, the Sunshine State is a leader in promoting boating accident prevention according to the Tallahassee baed natural resource agency.  

“Florida waterways are a destination for boating activities by residents and visitors, and those activities increase as we enter the summer months, unfortunately so do the accidents,” said Maj. Bill Holcomb, FWC Boating and Waterways Section Leader, in a FWC news release.   “FWC officers respond to far too many tragic boating accidents that could have been prevented by following a few simple boating safety guidelines.”

According to FWC, there were 659 reportable boating accidents last year and almost 30% of those 2023 accidents were caused by a collision with some sort of fixed object. The agency reports that the primary causes for these accidents were improper lookout and operator inexperience.

To help reduce the number of boating accidents in the state, FWC encourages boaters to pay attention, maintain 360-degree awareness at all times and take a boater safety course. Over 80% of operators involved in fatal boating accidents in 2023 had no formal boater education. For a summary of Florida’s regulations and available courses, visit: MyFWC.com/Boating.

“The facts are clear,” said Holcomb. “An educated boater is a safer boater and, honestly, everyone can benefit from taking a boating safety course, it makes for a safer and more enjoyable experience for everyone on board.” 

Among other tips found at MyFWC.com/Boating, boaters are encouraged to find and wear a comfortable U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket at all times while on the water. According to 2023 FWC boating accident statistics, approximately 50% of the boating deaths were due to drowning. Events can cause a boater to end up in the water unexpectedly, and a person will not have time to grab their life jacket before they find themselves in the water.       

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Boaters should also educate themselves on the dangers of impaired boating. Alcohol and drugs can impair a boater’s judgement, reaction time and overall ability to operate a boat safely.

“Boating while impaired by alcohol or drugs is not only dangerous but illegal,” said Holcomb. “FWC officers are always on the lookout for impaired operators and these operators will face arrest if found to be operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs.”

To report people who are operating boats dangerously, call 888-404-FWCC or text 847411 (Tip411) with keyword “FWC” and information about the violation.




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