In Florida, summer is the time for fun on the water. Operators of powerboats, sailboats and other watercraft are legally responsible for the safety of their passengers and others on public waterways. Every year, preventable boating accidents claim lives or cause injuries with long-term consequences.
Boating is a fun activity, and too often, boat operators lose sight of the potential dangers. A part of the operator’s responsibility is to ensure all passengers are informed of the risks and applicable laws. Boaters must use pre-departure checklists to ensure compliance with the safety precautions.
Safety discussion with passengers
Before departure, the passengers must learn about the following safety equipment and where to find them:
- Personal flotation devices
- Manual propelling device
- Fire extinguisher
- First-aid kit
- Bailers and water pumps
- Visual signals
Passengers must all be provided with a lifejacket or personal floating device. This is particularly crucial in high boat traffic times and during extreme weather conditions. Each passenger must be shown the correct way to put on the lifejacket or use the floating device.
Passengers must understand that the operator could be injured or otherwise unable to navigate the boat, in which case they need to know how to take over and get the boat to safety. They must be familiar with boating laws, such as waste disposal, required equipment and reckless operation. Passengers must also know how to handle the following:
- Making MAYDAY calls on the VHF radio and other ways to signal for help
- How to deal with an onboard fire
- What to do if someone falls overboard
- When and how to use buoyant heaving lines
- How to handle lines and anchor the boat
Boat owners must understand that they could be held accountable for any damage or personal injuries while another person operates the vessel.
Victims of boating accidents in Florida might have grounds to pursue financial relief through the civil justice system. Losses that could be recoverable include medical expenses, lost wages and emotional damages like pain and suffering.