EDITORIAL: Do your part and be safe on the water
The boating season has barely begun and we’re already starting to see the kinds of incidents that help put Florida at the top of the national list last year for boating accidents.
We’ve had a Crab Island business break loose of its mooring during a storm and drift into someone’s dock.
We’ve had a kayaker missing overnight near the Choctawhatchee River.
And we’ve had two teenage boys whose kayak sank in the boat lane at the Marler Bridge, after they were pulled away from Crab Island by a strong outgoing tide.
The bottom line is Florida has more registered boats than any other state, with 873,507 recorded in 2014. The next closest state is Minnesota with 809,292. During that time period, Florida had 581 recreational boating accidents, which put it in the No. 1 spot. Minnesota, on the other hand, didn’t even make the top 10 list of accidents last year.
The No. 1 cause of accidents in Florida last year was inattention on the part of the boat operator. Inexperience was No. 2. Machinery failure and excessive speed were the third and fourth reasons, respectively.
We’re hoping 2016 will be a better year, although it’s off to a bad start with the first local boating fatality happening March 18, when a boat loaded with people crashed into the east jetty and capsized. Another woman, believed to be a passenger on that same boat, is still missing.
If she is confirmed dead, that puts the number of fatalities in Okaloosa County at two, with the season just beginning.
Preventing boating accidents is much like staying safe on busy roads.
Pay attention. Make sure you know the rules of the road, or, in this case, the rules of local waterways.
Keep your safety equipment updated, with a flotation device on board for every person on a vessel, and working lights for night travel.
Local waterways are a lot wider than U.S. Highway 98, but that doesn’t mean you can relax while navigating them.
If Minnesota can do it, so can Florida.
Safe operation of vessels is a choice that each operator makes.
We have some of the world’s most beautiful waterways in Northwest Florida. Do your part to keep them safe.