65 fatalities logged statewide last year, but none recorded in Sarasota County incidents
Sarasota County ranked 10th in the state for boating accidents in 2022, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has reported in its Boating Accident Statistical Report for that year.
The total for the county was 19, with 13 injuries but no fatalities, FWC added.
Property damage was put at $255,900.
Altogether, FWC said in the report, Sarasota County is home to 23,924 boats, with 23,438 of those identified as recreational vessels.
The agency released the report last week, following what it noted was a “successful National Safe Boating Week and a Memorial Day weekend with zero boating fatalities.”
Monroe County, which is home to the Florida Keys, led the state with reportable boating accidents in 2022, FWC pointed out. The number was 92. Miami-Dade County was a close second, the report said, with 90 incidents.
Palm Beach County had 49, while Pinellas County had 40, and Lee County had 37.
“We had fewer boating accidents in Florida in 2022 than we did in 2021 but fatalities statewide were up,” said Lt. Col. Brian Smith, acting director for the FWC Division of Law Enforcement, in a news release marking the release of the report. “I am proud of the effort our officers and boating and waterways staff put into getting boating safety messaging out to the public throughout the year, and my hope is we will see both of these statistics decrease next year,” he added in the release.
In 2021, Florida led the nation with the number of boating fatalities: 63. Texas followed, with 52, the report showed. The figure for Florida climbed last year, to 65, FWC pointed out. The number of registered vessels in the state last year was 1,029,993, the report said. That figure was up approximately 1.6% from the 2021 tally of 1,013,211, the report noted.
Since 2018, FWC pointed out, the highest number of boating fatalities in Florida in a single year was recorded in 2020: 79.
In 2022, the primary cause of death was drowning, as determined in 64% of the incidents, a chart showed. “Trauma” was cited in another 27% of the accidents.
The majority of the 2022 fatalities were associated with falls overboard, FWC pointed out. The figure was 18. “Collision with fixed object” led to 12 deaths, a chart noted, while capsizing resulted in seven deaths.
“Since 2003, falls overboard has been the leading type of fatal accident, with drowning as the leading cause of death,” the FWC news release said. “Of the drowning victims,” it continued, “81% were not wearing a life jacket.”
A pie chart in the report showed that 57% of the 1,978 operators and occupants that FWC noted as having been involved in the 2022 boating accidents could not swim. The agency added that it was unable to confirm that detail for another 17 occupants.
In regard to fatalities, the agency said that 34% of the victims could not swim. No details were available, FWC noted, about that ability for 5% of those who died.
Yet, the news release pointed out, “Today’s boaters can choose from several models of light and comfortable, inflatable belt-pack or over-the-shoulder life jackets.” (For more information about life jackets, visit MyFWC.com/Boating and select “Safety-Education,” and then “Wear-It-Florida.” )
“Accidents happen quickly and unexpectedly, and boaters might not have time to grab their life jacket before finding themselves in the water,” Lt. Nicholas Korade of the FWC Boating and Waterways Section said in the news release. “The message is clear,” he added: “ ‘Life Jackets Save Lives.’ ”
Alcohol and/or drug use was a factor in only 13% of the fatal incidents, yet another chart showed. Further, 85% of the victims were male, and 80% of them were Florida residents.
Causes of incidents, operator experience and operator age
The primary cause of fatal accidents was “Other,” a chart said. Alcohol use was cited in seven accidents, while six incidents were a result of weather issues, and another six were linked to excessive speed. “Operator Inexperience” and “Operator Inattention” resulted in five incidents apiece.
On the other hand, “Operator Inattention” and “No Proper Look-out” were cited for the highest number of the 2022 boating accidents — 216.
“All vessel operators are responsible for always keeping 360-degree awareness since dangers are not always located ahead,” the FWC news release stressed.
“Operator Inexperience” accounted for another 100 general boating incidents in 2022, with excessive speed cited in 43.
“Operator inexperience can be attributed to the operator’s limited time or experience with the vessel, the area or the weather,” the news release added.
Yet another statistic showed that the majority of the fatal incidents occurred in situations in which the operator of the boat was age 51 or older; the figure was 38%. The operator was in an age range between 36 and 50 in another 33% of the situations, the same chart noted.
In related data, 233 of the boat operators involved in accidents who were age 51 or older had had no boating education. That compared to 146 with no education in the age range of 36 to 50.
“The number of Boating Safety Education Cards issued in 2022 has tripled since 2010, but 45 of the operators involved in fatal accidents and 515 of the 926 operators in reportable accidents did not have formal boating education,” Korade of the FWC Boating and Waterways Section noted in the release. “The FWC encourages all boaters, regardless of age or experience, to take a boating safety course for the safety of themselves and everyone on the water with them,” Korade added.
Another chart showed that 64.5% of the fatal incidents happened with operators at the helm who had more than 100 hours of experience, FWC pointed out. The next highest number of accidents — 26% — occurred with an operator who had had between 10 and 100 hours of experience, FWC said.
Further, the report said that May was the 2022 month in which the largest number of fatalities occurred. The total was 12. June was in second place, with 10.
Among other details, the majority of fatal incidents — 16 — occurred between 4 and 5:59 p.m. That total was almost double the number — nine — reported between 6 and 7:59 p.m., the chart showed.
Additionally, the report said that, for the vast majority of fatal incidents — 38 — the vessels were cruising.
Locations and types of vessels
By far, the largest number of boating accidents in 2022 — 722 — occurred during the use of propeller-powered vessels, a chart said. Moreover, 449 of the incidents were linked to open motorboats, and the majority of the vessels involved in accidents — 259 — were less than 12 feet in length. The second highest figure for incidents — 187 — involved boats ranging from 22 to 26 feet in length.
Among other details, FWC noted that 212 of the accidents occurred in bays or sounds, with another 139 having taken place in rivers or creeks.
Additionally, 67 accidents were recorded in areas with signage calling for slow speed, while another 57 happened in locations where idle speed was dictated.
The report also said that 441 of the incidents involved just one vessel, and most of the deaths — 56 — were linked to single-boat incidents.
Personal watercraft accounted for 159 incidents.
The FWC is responsible for reviewing, analyzing and compiling boating accident data for the state, the news release explained.
For a copy of the 2022 Boating Accident Statistical Report visit MyFWC.com/Boating and select “Boater Education,” then “Boating Accident Statistical Reports.”