Because Florida is a peninsula and has numerous lakes and rivers, many people enjoy boating throughout the year. Unfortunately, this also means that boating accidents and injuries are a common occurrence.
Florida led the U.S. in boating incidents in 2012, when 700 accidents and 55 fatalities were reported in the state. State Rep. Dwight Dudley of St. Petersburg thinks it’s time to improve training that boat operators receive. He wants safety training to be required for anyone who operates a boat in Florida.
“Clearly we need to educate boaters,” Dudley told Fox 13. “So, I think there ought to be some sort of boater safety course that is mandatory for anybody that steps onto a vessel.”
A similar bill called Osmany’s Law had been proposed previously in the Florida legislature. It was named for Osmany Castellanos, who died in a boating accident in south Florida in 2007.
Castellanos was on a boat with several others when he was knocked into the water. He wasn’t wearing a life vest. Unsure of what to do, the operator turned the boat around and accidentally ran over Castellanos.
Osmany’s Law became more and more watered down throughout the legislative process. Instead of requiring that all boat operators take a safety class, only those born after 1988 have to take it.
The changes excluded those involved in Castellanos’ accident. Most boaters who are involved in accidents in Florida don’t meet the age requirement.
According to 2012 statistics from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission:
The most common accident was a fall overboard.
- The most common place for an accident was a lake or pond.
- Seventy-six percent of fatalities involved an owned boat, not one that was borrowed or rented.
- Sixty-two percent of boating deaths were the result of drowning.
- Ninety-three percent of those killed were men.
- Fifty-six percent of deaths involved boat operators who had over 100 hours of experience operating a boat.
- Seventy-one percent of deaths involved boat operators with no boating education.
That last statistic is exactly what Rep. Dudley aims to alter with the boating safety training bill Florida’s waterways are important to the state, and everyone should be safe while using them.