Earlier this week, we discussed the dangers of "BUI" - boating under the influence. Alcohol impairment on behalf of operators and/or passengers can lead to property damage, injury, and even death. It is not, however, the only danger on the water. Excessive speed while boating is dangerous and can cause serious accidents. While boaters may be tempted to step up the speed, enjoying the power of their craft and the wind in their hair, speeding on the water can have tragic consequences. As a law firm for Panama City boating accident victims, we step in to help people injured as a result of an operator's poor judgment or risky choices.
Additional details emerged this week in the fatal boating crash we wrote about in another recent blog post. As reported by WJHG, investigators with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission ("FWC") have now released their final report on the December boat crash that claimed three lives in Destin. All of the victims had been drinking when they took the boat out on the Choctawhatchee Bay, eventually hitting a Mid Bay Bridge piling.
According to the FWC investigation, "operator inattention" and "excessive speed" were the main factors in the crash which sent the trio overboard. Autopsy reports show Robert Williams, a 47-year-old former Bay High basketball coach, 21-year-old Jamilia Beltz, and 18-year-old Taylor Evanoff all drowned, and all were intoxicated at the time of death.
According to the United States Coast Guard's Recreational Boating Statistics 2012, 2012 saw 4,515 recreational boating accidents involving 651 fatalities, some 3000 injuries, and around $38 million dollars in property damage. Florida alone saw 662 total recreational boating accidents leading to 50 deaths and 398 injuries. Analyzing all the crashes nationwide, the Coast Guard listed "excessive speed" as one of the five most common primary contributing factors. Excess speed was deemed the primary factor in 310 boating accidents, 31 deaths, and 288 injuries (to compare, operator inattention is the top contributing factor leading to 581 accidents, 47 fatalities, and 359 injuries). Notably, and perhaps a factor that increases the likelihood of excess speed, where information was available, 71% of recreational boating deaths involved an operator who had no boating instruction.
In certain areas in Florida, boating speeds are regulated to protect wildlife. In other places, speeds are restricted as a matter of boating safety. Boaters must comply with posted speed limits and, where no speed limit is posted, they must not exceed a speed that is reasonable and prudent given water traffic, visibility, weather conditions, and other factors. As a guiding principle, Florida regulations require operating a vehicle in a manner that does not endanger others which means it is illegal to travel at speeds that pose a danger to life or property. These rules are summarized in “Florida: Legal Requirements of Boating,” assembled by the Boat Florida Course.
Speeding on the water can make it impossible to stop in time to avoid a crash, leave inadequate time to maneuver around an obstacle, make it even harder to respond around blind corners, and increase the severity of injuries and damage when a collision occurs. If a boater's decision to place the thrill of speed over the safety of his/her passengers or others in the area results in injury or death, that boater should be held responsible. If you or a loved one was harmed in a speed-related boating crash, call our Panama City boating accident law firm for help recovering the compensation you deserve.