Boating accidents comparatively scarce in 2020

A review of boating accident statistics for 2020, issued
earlier this summer by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission,
shows that both Franklin and Gulf counties had a pretty safe, but by no means,
perfect year.

The Boating Accident Statistical Report report by the Division
of Law Enforcement showed each county had five reportable accidents, and
two injuries. Sadly, there was one boating fatality in Gulf County in 2020.

To be classified as reportable, a boating accident must meet
at least one of these five criteria – a person dies, or disappears under
circumstances that indicate possible death or injury; a person receives an
injury requiring medical treatment beyond immediate first aid; there is at
least $2,000 aggregate property damage to the vessel(s) or other property; or
the vessel is a total loss.

The countiesÂ’ accident rate were identical – one reportable
incident per 608 registered vessels. This put the two counties smack dab in the
middle of the stateÂ’s rankings, Franklin at 33rd and Gulf at 34th.

FranklinÂ’s boating accidents caused $$43,300 in property
damage, about four times the costs of GulfÂ’s $11,200 in damage.

Whereas both counties have roughly the same number of total
registered vessels –  Franklin at 3,040
and Gulf at 3,042 – there is a larger percentage of recreational vessels in
Gulf, 2,793 or 92 percent, than there are in Franklin, where 2,415, or just
over 79 percent are recreational.

In the case of personal watercraft accidents, the counties
again ranked midway among the stateÂ’s 67 counties, with Gulf at 35th and
Franklin at 36th.

Gulf has 146 registered personal watercraft, and Franklin
129, although the latter offered 20 for rental in 2020, while Gulf had
only 10.

Each county had just one personal watercraft accident in
2020, and one injury. No damage was reported in Franklin, while in Gulf there
was property damage of $200.

The number of vessels registered in Florida increased
slightly in 2020; with 985,005 registered vessels, the state leads the nation in
registered vessels. Additionally, it is estimated up to one million
non-registered vessels actively use FloridaÂ’s waters, and this segment of the
boating population appears to still be growing.

“Our waterways show the strains of congestion as each year
brings more residents and visitors together to utilize our abundant water
resources and enjoy Florida’s boating lifestyle,” read the report.

A look statewide for 2020 shows there were 836 reportable
boating accidents in 2020, with collision with vessel was the leading type, comprising
27 percent. Towed watersport activities were involved in 23 accidents,
resulting in nine fatalities and 37 injuries, while paddle/Human powered craft,
such as canoes, kayaks, rowboats and paddleboards, were involved in 14
accidents resulting in 14 fatalities and one injured.

May was the month with the highest number of accidents, 120.
Monroe County reported the highest number of accidents and injuries, with 99
total accidents with nine fatalities and 52 injuries.

Among the stateÂ’s 79 fatalities, 46 percent resulted from
falls overboard, with boaters falling overboard the leading type of boating
fatality. The leading cause of death in fatal boating accidents was drowning
with 42 fatalities, or 53 percent.

March was the deadliest month in 2020 with 10 fatalities. Alcohol
or drug-use is reported to have played a role in 23 percent of boating
fatalities. More than three-fourths of the victims of fatal boating accidents
were males, while three out of five of the 91 operators involved in fatal
accidents were age 36 or older. Three-quarters of all vessels involved in fatal
accidents in 2020 were 21 feet in length or less.

Personal watercraft, which accounted for 15 percent of all
registered vessels in Florida, were involved in 27 percent of reportable
boating accidents. Rented personal watercraft represented 48 percent of these
watercraft involved in accidents. Forty-four percent of personal watercraft accidents
involved a collision with another vessel. Fifteen people died, and 183 were
injured, from the stateÂ’s 227 personal watercraft  accidents.

The data also showed that 69 percent of the operators
involved in fatal accidents had no formal boater education.