Grim news from nation’s boating capital

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APRIL 19 —A recent study indicates that Florida has more fatal boating accidents than any other state in the country.

According to information compiled by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, 212 people died in the state between 2003 and 2005 due to boating-related accidents, a news report says. There were 80 deaths alone in 2005. Most of those were caused by drowning.

“Many people think they can use their life jackets for years and years, or hand them down from one generation to the next,” a U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary officer says in the report, pointing out that wearing just any PFD isn’t always good enough. “Truth is, life jackets get worn out and lose their effectiveness. You need to check life jackets for wear and buoyancy at least once a year.”

It appears that 2007 is on track to being another deadly year on the water for Florida boaters, the conservation commission says. As of early April there were 18 reported boating accident fatalities in the state.

“The FWC is urging boaters to take boating safety seriously and focus on two critical messages: Pay attention to your surroundings; and wear your life jacket,” a FWC captain says in a press release.

Most boating-related accidents occur on smaller boats and involve only a single vessel, the release says. After examining boating accident reports, FWC officials found that the primary cause of accidents is driver inattentiveness.

“Remember, one bad decision can ruin a great day on the water,” a FWC law enforcement director says in the release.

­ — Jason Fell