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The Boating Safety Bill That Will Keep Floridians Afloat

— March 8, 2024

Boating safety is a critical issue in Florida, especially in areas like Monroe, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach which experience an especially high number of boating accidents.

If you live in Florida, chances are you know someone who has gotten into an accident on the water. Due to its extensive coastline, Florida experiences a very high number of boating accidents. Additionally, the popularity of boating and tourism in our state also contributes to a higher likelihood of collisions.

South Florida Senator Ileana Garcia is aiming to bolster boating safety by introducing Senate Bill 30 (SB 30) for the upcoming legislative session in 2024. The legislation, which will go into effect on July 1 of this year, expands the requirement for all Floridians to carry proof of boater-safety education, simplifies licensing procedures by allowing boaters to indicate their education on their driver’s licenses at no additional cost, and introduces new penalties for boating under the influence. While this legislation may reduce boating accidents and reduce the number of cases that Florida boat accident lawyers must handle, harmful collisions will unfortunately still occur.

How the Bill Works

Senator Ileana Garcia is taking a proactive approach to enhance boating safety with the introduction of SB30. This legislation aims to bring significant changes to boater-safety regulations and address the issue of boating under the influence in the Sunshine State.

Boater-Safety Education Requirement

One of the key provisions of SB 30 is the expansion of boater-safety education requirements. Currently, Florida law mandates that only individuals born after the year 1988 must possess a boater-safety ID, which is obtained upon completion of an approved course.

All Floridians, regardless of boating experience, will be required to carry proof of boater-safety education. This measure intends to raise the overall safety standards for all boaters in the state. Not everyone agrees.

Streamlined Licensing Process

SB 30 seeks to simplify licensing procedures for boaters. It proposes that boaters can include proof of their boater education on their driver’s licenses at no cost. This move aims to make it more convenient for boaters to comply with safety regulations without incurring any additional financial burden.

Crackdown on Boating Under the Influence

Boating under the influence has been a persistent issue in Florida’s waterways. According to a report issued by the U.S. Coast Guard, there were 29 boating accidents that occurred in 2022 where alcohol use was deemed a contributing factor. Nine of those accidents were fatal. 

Senator Garcia’s proposed legislation addresses drunk boating by introducing penalties for individuals convicted of operating their vessels while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Not exactly a radical proposal. Such individuals would be obligated to purchase vessel insurance, including a minimum $100,000 policy for death or personal injury as well as a $50,000 policy for property damage.

Fishing boat and rod
Fishing boat and rod; image courtesy of K_Malik via Pixabay,

This change aims to ensure that victims of boating accidents caused by intoxicated operators receive some compensation for their losses. Failure to carry this insurance would result in a second-degree misdemeanor penalty.

Is There Opposition to SB30?

While Senate Bill 30 (SB 30) aims to improve boating safety and make waterways safer for everyone in Florida, it has garnered opposition from some individuals who hold varying viewpoints.

Some recreational boaters believe the additional regulations are unnecessary. These parties emphasize that some boaters already go through a licensing process and question the need for further legislation. They believe that the bill may be overly restrictive for those who enjoy the freedom of boating.

Still, the opposition to SB 30 is not unanimous amongst boaters. Many boating enthusiasts acknowledge the benefits of the bill’s reeducation efforts. Everyone recognizes that periodic reminders about boating safety can be beneficial for everyone on the water.

National Boating Accident Statistics Collected by the U.S. Coast Guard

In 2022, the U.S. Coast Guard recorded a total of 4,040 recreational boating accidents, resulting in 636 fatalities, 2,222 injuries, and approximately $63 million in property damage. The fatality rate stood at 5.4 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational vessels, representing a slight decrease from the previous year.

Notably, alcohol use remained a leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents, accounting for 16% of deaths. Operator inattention, inexperience, improper lookout, excessive speed, and machinery failure were the other primary factors contributing to accidents.

Florida’s New Boating Safety Bill Will Reduce Accidents and Prevent Injuries

Boating safety is a critical issue in Florida, especially in areas like Monroe, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach which experience an especially high number of boating accidents. With SB 30, Senator Ileana Garcia is taking significant steps to enhance boater safety and ensure a more responsible boating environment in our state.

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