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National Safe Boating Week raises awareness

ANNA MARIA ISLAND – National Safe Boating Week, May 20-26, was an annual reminder for boaters to prioritize safety while enjoying Florida’s waterways.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), the state leads the nation with over 1 million registered vessels.

“Unfortunately, each year FWC officers respond to far too many tragic boating accidents that could have been prevented. There were hundreds of accidents reported last year involving almost 2,000 individuals,” FWC Boating and Waterways Section Leader Major Rob Beaton said in a recent FWC press release.

According to the organization, 54% of all vessel accidents in 2022 involved collisions, with the primary causes being improper lookout and operator inexperience. FWC encourages boaters to pay attention to their surroundings, always maintain 360-degree awareness and to take a boater safety course.

In 2022, 70% of operators involved in fatal boating accidents had no formal boater education.

“We know that an educated boater is safer on the water,” Beaton said. “Everyone can benefit from taking a boating safety course, it makes for a safer and more enjoyable experience for everyone on board.”

FWC encourages boaters to always wear United States Coast Guard-approved life jackets while on the water, as well as to avoid impaired boating.

“FWC officers are always on the lookout for impaired operators and these operators will face arrest if found to be operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs,” Beaton said.

To report dangerous boating activity, the public can submit anonymous tips by texting 847411 (Tip411) with the keyword “FWC” followed by the location and any information about the violation or call 888-404-FWCC (3922).

For a summary of Florida’s boating regulations, available courses and boating safety tips, visit FWC online.

City proclamation

During the May 25 Anna Maria City Commission meeting, Mayor Dan Murphy read aloud a city proclamation that said in part, “Safe boating begins with boating safety education and vessel preparation. The United States Coast Guard estimates human error or poor judgment accounts for most boating accidents. Basic safety precautions, such as taking a boating safety course, wearing life jackets, staying sober while boating, getting a free vessel safety check to confirm a vessel meets USCG safety requirements and carrying communication equipment can help ensure that boaters stay safe.”

More tips

Anna Maria resident David Haddox is the commander of the Anna Maria Island Sail & Power Squadron, and he provided The Sun with some additional insights.

He said Florida led the nation last year with 457 boating injuries and 70 boating fatalities.

More than 70% of the boating fatalities involve boats that are 21 feet long or shorter. Drowning is the most common cause of boating fatalities (64%) and four of five boater drownings involve boaters not wearing life jackets. At 27%, trauma was the second most common cause of boater fatalities.

Haddox encourages boat operators to wear an engine cut-off switch lanyard so that if the operator falls overboard, the boat will stop instead of motoring away or circling and causing death or injury by propeller strike.

“At the beginning of every trip, brief everyone on board about safety issues – where the fire extinguishers are and how to use them; how to stop and restart the engine; how to make a VHF radio mayday call; where the first aid kit is and where the anchor is,” he advises.

Haddox recommends taking America’s Boating Course. The next one offered by the local squadron begins Monday, June 5 at 6 p.m. and pre-registration is required.

“A state-approved boating safety course like ours is required for any boat operator born on or after Jan. 1, 1988,” Haddox noted.

Visit the AMI squadron online or contact them at 941-477-7845 or at AMISailPowerSquadron@gmail.com. America’s Boating Course is also available online.

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