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Florida boating accidents down, deaths up

Boating accidents in Florida decreased in 2022, but deaths from the accidents were up, according to a new report from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The state recorded 735 boating accidents last year, 16 fewer than in 2021. However, accidents caused 65 deaths in 2022, an increase of five from 2021, according to the annual Boating Accident Statistical Report released Thursday.

Lt. Col. Brian Smith, acting director of the commission's Division of Law Enforcement, said in a statement that the "hope is we will see both of these statistics decrease next year."

Just over 40 percent of the reported accidents were caused by operator inexperience or improper attention, the report said. The agency also listed a lack of boater education as a contributing factor in accidents.

Lt. Nicholas Korade, of the commission's Boating and Waterways Section, said in a news release that 45 of the boat operators involved in fatal accidents and 515 of the 926 operators in reported accidents did not have formal boating education.

Monroe County, which includes the Florida Keys, had 92 reported accidents, the most of any county. Miami-Dade County was next at 90, followed by Palm Beach County at 49 and Pinellas County at 40.

The largest number of reported accidents came in July 2022, with 93. December had the fewest reported accidents at 23. The report cited 48 cases of people falling overboard, which since 2003 has been the leading type of fatal accident.

"Of the drowning victims, 81 percent were not wearing a life jacket," the report said.

The report said the number of registered recreational boats in Florida increased from 950,740 in 2018 to nearly 1.03 million last year. More recreational boats are registered in Florida than any other state.  

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