Report: Florida Boating Industry Grows, So Too Does Injury Risk


Boating has always been big in the Sunshine State. So too has the risk of boating-related accidents.

However, new data suggests we may soon see a spike in boat-related injuries as the marine industry – particularly in South Florida – is even further expanding.

The Sun Sentinel reported on a study, commissioned by the Marine Industries Association of South Florida, indicating that between fiscal year 2010 and 2014, Broward County’s recreational boating industry raked in more than $1.5 billion in sales, as of the end of June. In Palm Beach County, sales neared $590 million. In Miami-Dade, they topped $310 million.

From the beginning of the research period to the end, Palm Beach posted a growth of more than 100 percent, while Miami-Dade marine industry growth ballooned by 31 percent and Broward by 22 percent. The industry overall in South Florida has a major impact of nearly $12 billion and employing some 137,000 workers in 2014. This upward trend follows several years of decline amid the Great Recession.

Many call this turn “exciting.” However, our West Palm Beach boating injury lawyers also see it as cause for concern. Inevitably, a growth in this industry is going to mean an uptick of boating-related injuries and deaths.

According to the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, 58 people have been killed so far this year in boating accidents in Florida. The total in 2013 was 62 deaths, with the total number of reportable accidents at 736 statewide. There were additionally 420 injuries reported.

A spokesman for the FWC says at this point, they aren’t seeing a marked increase in boating accident injuries, though they are receiving more attention.

One crash in particular this year made national headlines, after four people were killed near Dinner Key Marina in Miami, when hundreds of boats hurried back to port after watching the fireworks display on the Fourth of July. This prompted many to start talking about the inherent risks of boating, and the lack of regulation among drivers.

While boating under the influence is illegal – just like DUI on the roadway – it is not always as strictly enforced. The Miami-Dade County Association of Police Chiefs is trying to change that, and following the July crash worked with the county mayor to found a task force specifically aimed at tackling the BUI issue. The partnership is now turning their sites to beefing up other county ordinances, including one that would cap the number of boats that can be tethered together in the water. Another goal is to support legislation that would require anyone who drives a boat to take classes.

Of the 2013 reportable boating fatalities tabulated by the FWC in 2013:

  • 42 percent involved falls overboard
  • The leading cause of death was drowning
  • December was the deadliest month
  • Alcohol and drugs played a role in 15 percent of all boating deaths
  • 72 percent of operators involved in fatal wrecks were over the age of 35
  • Nearly half of all fatal accidents involved vessels that were 16 feet or less
  • 63 percent of operators involved in fatal boat crashes last year had no formal boater education

Given the inherent danger of this activity, we hope all operators will make it a point to become educated and use extreme caution when taking to the seas.

If you have been injured in a boating accident, contact the Hollander Law Firm at (561) 347-7770 for a free and confidential consultation. There is no fee unless we win.

Additional Resources:

Boating drives South Florida economy, Oct. 30, 2014, By Arlene Satchell, Sun Sentinel

More Blog Entries:

3rd DCA: Read Fine Print on Cruise Ship Ticket If You Want to Sue, Oct. 3, 2014, West Palm Beach Boating Accident Lawyer