68 died in Florida boating accidents last year
increased fractionally last year, but fatalities were up more than 6 percent.
Figures released Friday by the Florida Fish
and Wildlife Conservation Commission show 68 people died in boating
accidents in 2004 — an increase of four from the 2003 figure. The number of boats registered, meanwhile, edged up from 978,225 in 2003 to 982,907.
The higher fatality rate continues an upward pattern that began in 2001.
Pinellas County reported the highest number of fatalities with seven. Monroe County had the highest numbers of accidents (98) and injuries (57). Palm Beach County recorded by far the highest property damage figure at $8.6 million, but $8 million of that resulted from a single
incident in which a 150-foot yacht caught fire and was destroyed.
“Even the good news wasn’t really good,” the commission said in a statement. It pointed out that the number of boating accidents had dropped from 1,005 in 2003 to 743 last year, but attributed that more to a change in reporting procedures than safer boating habits. In 2003, an accident
had to involve $500 in damage to make the list; last year, the figure was $2,000.
The FWC data indicates that inexperience is not a major factor in boating accidents. The typical victim is not a child or adolescent, the agency said, but a 22- to 50-year-old male with many hours at the helm
. “If he did not survive the accident
, most likely he drowned, because he thought it uncomfortable, unbecoming or unnecessary to wear a life jacket — even if he couldn’t swim,” the report said. Drowning was the leading cause of death, claiming 65 percent of the victims.
continued to be the leading cause of accidents, the FWC said. It pointed out that the combination of wave action, hot sun and physical exertion from being on the water
compounds the influence of alcohol. “Designated drivers can save lives on the boats, just as they do on highways,” said FWC Capt. Richard Moore, in a statement.