It’s that time of year when people like to take the covers off their boats and head out on the water. The weather is gorgeous. A lot of people take it easy this time of year. It’s the ideal time to spend some quality hours on the water.
Whether you’re sight-seeing or just fishing, Fort Walton Beach is a great place to own a boat. You can spend your weekends with the family out on the blue waters. Or, you can invite your friends over for an afternoon on the boat.
Before you start your engines, however, you need to remind yourself of some Florida boat safety requirements. The last thing you want to do is get into a boating accident. Personal injury lawyers in Fort Walton Beach handle way too many boat accident cases. It’s important to them that you be aware of the safety rules and guidelines.
So, here are 9 boating safety tips that can help you enjoy this summer without a trip to the hospital. If you follow these tips, you should be able to spend a few months out on the water without any issues.
Just because you’re safe doesn’t mean other boaters are safe. You have to be on the lookout for people who aren’t as careful as you are. If someone does crash into your boat, you need to call and speak with a Fort Walton Beach personal injury attorney right away.
It’s really important that you boat is outfitted with all the necessary safety gear. One of the biggest causes of boat accident injuries isn’t the accident itself. It’s the fact that many boat owners don’t have the necessary safety equipment on board.
Make sure your boat is equipped with the following gear this summer:
- Life jackets
- Fire extinguisher
- First Aid Kit
- Duct tape
If you don’t have these items in your boat, you need to get them. Do this before your first trip out. This way, you can prevent any unnecessary accidents or injuries.
One of the most important pieces of equipment you can have are life jackets. By law, you need to have one life jacket for each passenger on your boat. If you plan on having children on your boat, you need to have children’s life jackets too.
Some life jackets available today are highly functional. Some are equipped with things like:
- Technology to prevent hypothermia
- Floating devices
- Flip over so you can turn the body over
The United States Coast Guard can stop your boat at any time to check that you have approved life jackets. Before you buy one, you want to make sure it fits. You also want to make sure it meets all the Coast Guard’s requirements.
Check the Weather and Prepare for It
Before you take your boat out, you need to check the weather. This isn’t just to see if you’re going to enjoy some sun. It’s to make sure you’re prepared. Look at the tides and swells. Take notes of the currents and water temperature. The water in the spring can be as cold as it is in winter.
Don’t Overload Your Boat
This one may seem a bit obvious, but you need to make sure you don’t put too many people on your boat. Sometimes, especially around summer holidays, you get surprise guests. You need to strict to your boat’s maximum capacity.
Not only do you need to do this for your safety. You also need to obey the law. If you’re caught with too many people on your boat, you can get fined. You also present risks to people on your boats and other boats if you overload your vessel.
You don’t want to get into an accident and have people go overboard. Nor do you want to run out of life jackets or first aid equipment.
Children on Board
In Florida, all boaters and passengers under the age of six on vessels smaller than 26 feet in length are required to wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved Type I, II, or III PFD when in state waters. "At sea" is defined as any time the vessel is not anchored, moored, or aground.
The owner and/or operator of a vessel is obliged by Florida law to carry, store, maintain, and utilize the safety equipment mandated by the federal safety equipment regulations approved by the United States Coast Guard.
Check for Harmful Fumes
When you haven’t run your boat’s engine for a while, there can be some harmful fumes. You want to check your boat for things like carbon monoxide. This can make you and your guests very sick.
You also want to make sure you don’t have any chemical or gas leaks. The last thing you need is a fire or explosion while on the water.
Some of the places you should always check before you start your boat’s engine include:
- All remote sections on your boat
- Enclosed spaces, especially any inner cabins
- The engine room/area
- Blocked exhaust outlets
Make sure you have adequate ventilation. This will help ensure a pleasant and safe boat trip for you and your family.
Use Common Sense
One of the leading causes of boating accidents is the use of drugs or alcohol. If you’re driving the boat, you shouldn’t be drinking. It’s really that simple. You also don’t want your guest drinking too much or using drugs.
If your guests aren’t sober, they won’t be able to respond if there is an accident. And, the boat’s operator needs to be clear headed. The rules of the road are no different for the ocean. You aren’t allowed to drink and drive. It’s illegal and it’s very dangerous.
If another boater is drunk and ends up crashing into you, they’ll be liable for any injuries and damage caused. You can call and speak with an experienced Fort Walton Beach personal injury lawyer if this happens to you.
Follow Docking Procedures
At some point in your travels, you’re going to have to dock your boat. This could be at your local marine. Or, you and your guests may take the boat to a restaurant or club on the water. You need to make sure you know the docking procedures.
It’s a good idea to check these out before you set sail. If you know where you’re going, go online and look to see what their docking rules are. If there’s nothing online, call and ask. Talk to people who’ve taken their boats there before.
Boating Safety Course
As the operator of your boat, you’re responsible for everyone’s safety. This is why it’s a good idea for you to take a boating safety course. You can do this in person or online. In fact, there are free tests you can take.
It’s not a bad idea to take one every few years. You will learn about new technology and equipment. You can also learn about new risks that have been identified. The Coast Guard is really great about providing this information free of charge online.
Just because your boat used to be safe doesn’t mean it still is. You may have purchased the right safety equipment years ago. But, is it still there? Does it still work? This isn’t a risk you can take. You need to make sure you have everything on our checklist above.
You’re taking precious cargo on your boat. You want to do everything you can to protect your family and other boaters. You want to avoid a boating accident at all costs.
The United States Coast Guard or the U.S. Power Squadron will inspect your boat for free. They'll check to make sure you have all the right equipment. They'll also check for obvious (and not so obvious) dangers.
If they tell you there are issues with your boat, get them fixed right away. You shouldn’t take anyone out on your boat until you’re sure it’s ready.
Alcohol and Boating While Impaired (BUI)
In Florida, it is illegal to operate a sailboat while under the influence of alcohol or other substances. The operator of a vessel suspected of operating while intoxicated must submit to sobriety tests and a physical or chemical test to detect blood or breath alcohol concentration.
The operator of a vessel with a blood or breath alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or above is deemed to be under the influence.
Any individual under the age of 21 with a breath-alcohol concentration of 0.02 percent or greater who operates or has real physical control of a vessel violates Florida law.
What Are the Most Common Causes of Boat Accidents in Florida?
There are dozens of dangerous boating accidents in Florida every year. Thankfully, most of these are minor and nobody gets seriously hurt. But there are some where people get hurt and even die.
Some of the major causes of boat accidents in Florida include:
- Operator inexperience
- You're not properly trained to drive the boat
- Lack of safety precautions
- Lack of safety and first aid equipment
- Alcohol and drugs
- Too many people on the boat
You don’t want to be the one to cause a Florida boat accident. You also don’t want to be the victim. But, if this does happen, you can call a Fort Walton Beach personal injury lawyer.
Contact a Fort Walton Beach Personal Injury Lawyer Today
If you’ve been involved in a boating accident, you need to call a Fort Walton Beach boating accident lawyer. Your lawyer will sit down and review your case. They’ll let you know what it may be worthy. They’ll also let you know if they think you have a case at all.
The initial consultation is absolutely free. You pay nothing until you settle your case. The other boater is going to have lawyers working for them. You want to make sure you have an experienced lawyer working for you too.