How to Avoid Disaster on the Water During the Holidays
Warm winter months and clear coastal waters make recreational boating a favorite holiday activity for South Floridians. A fun day on the water can quickly take a turn for the worse if alcohol is involved. To stay safe this holiday season, remember never to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
At Mase Mebane Seitz, we are dedicated trial lawyers who represent individuals injured or killed in boating accidents in Miami and throughout South Florida. If you have been injured in a boat accident and need superior legal representation, contact our office at (305) 602-4824 for a free consultation.
Boating Fatalities in Florida
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), winter is one of the deadliest times of year for boating accidents in the state. There were 8 fatal boating accidents in December 2021 and 7 in January 2021. That year, the only other months to have as many or more deadly boat crashes were May and August.
Fatal accidents are more likely to occur during the mid-to-late afternoon and early evening compared to other times throughout the day.
The most common type of accident is falling overboard followed by collisions with other vessels. A boat is more likely to be cruising at the time of a fatal accident compared to other operations, such as drifting or while anchored.
Holiday Boating Accidents in Florida
In December 2021, near Jacksonville, Florida, two serious boating accidents occurred only weeks apart.
The first accident nearly took the arm of a father of two. As reported by News 4 Jax, a man was thrown overboard from his vessel after a wake from a much larger boat cut him off. His arm became stuck in the propeller resulting in serious injuries.
Around three weeks later, two people were taken to the hospital after a collision between two boats. Thankfully, the injuries were not life-threatening. The incident occurred around 5 miles off the coast of Mayport.
Why Boating Accidents Increase Around the Holidays
It is unclear why so many boating accidents happen during the winter months, but it may be due to an increase in alcohol use while on the water. Activities like holiday boat parades crowd a large number of vessels into a small area and usually involve a significant amount of people who are imbibing.
Florida hosts dozens of holiday boating parades each year including the world-famous Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade beginning on December 10, 2022. Parade participants and observers are strongly encouraged to wear a life jacket and designate a sober captain to prevent alcohol-related accidents.
BUI Safety Checklist
The best way to avoid danger on the water is to never operate a vessel with any amount of alcohol or drugs in your system.
If you plan to go on the water this holiday season:
- Boat sober
- Pack plenty of fresh water
- Make sure that you have plenty of snacks aboard
- Avoid situations where you know there will be alcohol
- Limit the amount of time you are out
- Have life vests and floatation devices for yourself and all passengers
- Encourage your passengers not to drink to excess while aboard the vessel
Any substance that can impair your judgment, reaction time, or physical and mental abilities can put yourself, your passengers, and other people on the water at risk for serious injury or death.
The Risks of Boating Under the Influence (BUI)
Things can change quickly on the water. Inclement weather can arise in a matter of minutes; calm waters can get rough quickly. If you are under the influence, you may not be able to react fast enough to these changing conditions, putting everyone in danger.
While boating is one of the most enjoyable activities to do during the winter months, it can become treacherous. By staying sober, you can ensure that you are thinking clearly and making smart decisions as unpredictable situations arise.
BUI Criminal Penalties in Florida
Boating under the influence is a criminal offense in Florida. A conviction for a first offense BUI can result in up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. The penalties increase if it is your second or subsequent conviction, a passenger under the age of 18 was aboard, or you have a blood alcohol level of 0.15% or higher.
Under most circumstances, boating under the influence is a misdemeanor; however, it can be charged as a felony of the third degree if the person operating under the influence causes or contributes to the serious bodily injury of another. If someone is killed, the operator could face BUI manslaughter charges.
Bringing a Civil Lawsuit If You Are Injured in a BUI Accident
A person injured as a result of a driver boating while impaired can also file a civil lawsuit. A civil lawsuit is designed to compensate an injured party for the losses they sustained as a result of the negligent party’s wrongful actions.
If you were injured in a boating accident caused by someone boating under the influence, you should consult with an experienced attorney. You are likely entitled to damages for your injuries, including compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Involved in a BUI accident? Get a Free Consultation Today.
If you were involved in a BUI accident, contact our office at (305) 602-4824 for a free, no-obligation case consultation.
At Mase Mebane Seitz, we have represented thousands of clients throughout Miami and South Florida. Our knowledgeable legal team will help you obtain the largest recovery possible. Get started today.