With its stunning coastlines and waterways, Miami is a prime location for boating enthusiasts to enjoy the sun and sea. However, this popularity also means an unfortunate reality: some boaters will end up injured in accidents and collisions.
In 2022, there were 735 reported boat accidents in Florida’s state waters, resulting in 65 deaths and 457 injuries. Miami-Dade, which had the second-highest accident count in the state that year—behind only Monroe county—experienced 90 boat accidents resulting in 8 deaths and 57 injuries.
Understanding the most common causes of boating accidents and how to minimize the risk of collisions and other accidents can help you stay safe while on the water.
Major Causes of Boating Accidents in and Around Miami
Boating accidents can be due to multiple reasons, from mechanical failures and operator inexperience to negligent behaviors like speeding or inattentive driving. The following are common causes of boating accidents on Miami waters:
- Distracted driving: Boat operators who are distracted by smartphones, talking with passengers, or engaging in other non-essential tasks can cause accidents. Distraction can lead to losing focus on navigation and awareness of the surroundings, increasing the risk of collision with other vessels, objects, or swimmers. In Florida, 245 boat accidents were caused by driver inattention in 2022.
- Drinking while boating: Operating a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs causes impaired judgment, decreased reaction time, and impaired coordination. This affects the operator’s ability to navigate safely, and can lead to collisions, groundings, or capsizing. 26 boat accidents involved alcohol use in Florida in 2022.
- Excessive speed: Operating a boat at speeds inappropriate for weather and ocean conditions, the vessel’s design, or the posted speed limits in the area is a major cause of accidents. High speeds reduce the operator’s ability to react in time to changing circumstances, such as avoiding obstacles or reacting to the wakes of other boats. Excessive speed accounted for 43 accidents in Florida in 2022.
- Operator inexperience: Boating operators without the knowledge and skills to navigate safely and respond effectively to various situations may struggle to make correct decisions, leading to collisions, groundings, or other accidents. This factor was involved in 100 crashes in Florida in 2022.
- Reckless boating or ignoring the rules: This can include engaging in dangerous behaviors such as aggressive maneuvering, wake jumping, or playing chicken with other vessels. Reckless boating can cause collisions, capsizing, or injuries to passengers and other boaters, creating a hazardous environment on the water. In 2022, reckless operation and violating navigation rules led to around 20 accidents.
How You Can Reduce the Risk of a Boating Accident on Miami Waters
If you are an avid boater in the Miami area, you can take action to reduce your risk of accident or injury. Use the following tips to help you stay safe and prevent injury to yourself and others:
- Boating education: Take boating safety courses to enhance your knowledge of navigation rules, emergency procedures, and safe operating practices. Anyone born after January 1, 1988, must take a boating safety course and have their Boating Safety Education ID Card to operate a boat in the state.
- Stay sober: Avoid alcohol and drugs while operating a boat to maintain good judgment and reaction times. Florida law makes driving a boat with a blood- or breath-alcohol level (BAC) over .08 a criminal offense; however, you should avoid operating a boat with any alcohol in your system.
- Avoid distractions: Stay focused on navigation and avoid distractions like smartphones or loud music that can hinder your situational awareness.
- Adapt speed: Observe posted speed limits and adjust your speed based on water conditions, water traffic, and visibility.
- Weather awareness: Stay informed about weather forecasts and conditions, and avoid boating during adverse weather or rough waters. You can check the National Weather Service Marine Forecast for Miami, the City of Miami Beach’s current conditions page, or sign up for weather alerts through a site like The Weather Channel.
- Regular maintenance: Perform routine checks and maintenance on your boat’s mechanical systems to prevent unexpected failures.
- Safety Equipment: Ensure your boat has proper safety gear, including life jackets for all passengers, distress signals, fire extinguishers, and navigation lights.
- Navigation Rules: Familiarize yourself with local navigation rules, right-of-way guidelines, and signaling to prevent collisions, and maintain a safe distance from other boats, docks, swimmers, and obstacles to prevent accidents.
- Reckless Behavior: Avoid aggressive maneuvers, wake jumping, and other reckless behaviors that can endanger you and others.
- Emergency Preparedness: Be prepared for emergencies by knowing how to use safety equipment, having a first aid kit onboard, and knowing how to call for help.
- Use Proper Lighting: Ensure your boat has appropriate navigation lights for visibility during low-light conditions. This means displaying USCG-dictated navigation lights between sunset and sunrise and in fog, haze, or rain in Florida.
- Local Regulations: Stay informed about Miami’s specific boating regulations, no-wake zones, and restricted areas.
Secure Your Rights After a Boating Injury
You deserve compensation if you or a loved one have been injured in a boating accident due to someone else’s negligence. Our experienced Miami boating accident lawyers at Aigen Injury Law understand boating rules in Miami-Dade County. We can investigate your case to determine liability and help you seek a fair settlement.
With our legal representation, you can seek damages for losses such as medical bills, lost earnings, and pain and suffering after a boating accident. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation regarding your claim.