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Leading Causes of Boat Accidents in Florida

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Posted on July 4, 2022

Updated on November 16, 2023

Although Floridians enjoy boating throughout the year, safety remains a prevalent concern for this popular pastime. In an effort to decrease the amount of boat accidents that occur, the state of Florida, along with the US Coast Guard Auxiliary, offers safety training and other programs to keep boating safe for everyone. However, we know many accidents still occur and it is important to know common causes and preventative measures.

The Primary Causes of Boating Accidents

Listed here are the most common causes of boating accidents in the U.S. Injuries caused by boat accidents can include drowning, head trauma, hypothermia, anoxic brain injury, and broken bones.

Improper Forward Watch

When operating a boat, the driver must always scan forward for anything that could potentially cross the boat’s path. Even when drifting or trolling, striking an object at slow speed can cause catastrophic damages and send a passenger overboard. Collisions most commonly result due to the operator’s lack of watch.


This is the leading cause of boating accident fatalities. Many accidents occur in twilight when light conditions and alcohol may induce poor judgment. Anchoring from the stern (rear) also increases the risk of capsizing for smaller vessels because boats are designed to cut through waves bow (front) first. A sudden gushing swell or rogue wave impacting the boat’s stern can result in instant swamping – causing the boat to capsize.

Man Overboard

Rough weather, choppy waters and/or abrupt maneuvering can send a boater overboard. Powerboats can turn with enough momentum shift to eject an occupant if he/she is caught off-guard or not seated securely. When a sailboat turns, the sail’s boom swings across the deck as it changes position in the wind and can easily knock a passenger into the water while causing significant trauma at the same time.

Some other common causes of boating accidents include:

  • Intoxicated driver
  • Inclement weather
  • Distracted boating
  • Negligent maintenance
  • Defective boat components

Causes of Death in Boating Accidents

What is the leading cause of death in boating accident in Florida? Drowning is the main cause of death in Florida boating accidents due to lack of life jackets and alcohol. Other leading causes of death include include collisions, speeding, and weather-related incidents. This highlights the importance of wearing life jackets while boating, and ensuring the vessel has enough flotation devices for everyone.

Causes of Fatal Boating Accidents

What is the primary and most common cause of fatal boating accidents in Florida? Collisions are the most common cause of fatal boating accidents in Florida, resulting from factors like speeding, inattention, and navigational errors. The potential for drowning is increased after a collision with another boat or object due to other injuries boaters may be subject to.

Prevention Tips for the Primary Causes of Florida Boating Accidents

Preventing Improper Forward Watch

The operator/driver/captain of the boat must scan forward at all times, occasionally glancing to each side to check for other approaching vessels and other potential dangers. Check in all directions (360 degrees) prior to turning, slowing down, or changing directions. Even with power off and the boat adrift, the owner/captain must be attentive to the water surrounding the vessel.

Preventing Capsizing

If people are consuming alcohol on a boat, always designate a driver who will not drink, just like with an automobile. Take extra care maneuvering and docking in twilight and at night. If using an anchor, always secure it from the bow (front) of the boat, never the (stern) rear or from either side.

Preventing Man Overboard

Best practices include keeping everyone seated while a boat is in motion. A good powerboat captain/driver should observe passenger positions when preparing to turn to ensure everyone is secure and aware.