Monroe County again held the dubious position atop the state’s roll of most dangerous counties for boating, with 93 significant accidents on the water in 2011.
That represents a 20 percent surge over the 77 "reportable" boat accidents locally in 2010, according to an annual report by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Boating accidents jumped in 2011 both statewide and in the Keys — even as the number of registered boats dropped.
The Keys saw six boating deaths and 66 injuries in 2011.
Monroe County’s fatality toll includes three powerboat racers killed in two crashes during a Key West race in November. Two fishermen were killed in August when a flats boat crashed into a utility pole at the Card Sound Bridge.
Overall, Florida marine officers statewide logged 742 reportable accidents and 67 deaths.
Miami-Dade County was second on the most-accidents list with 75 maritime mishaps that caused a total $16 million in damages. Keys crashes and sinkings caused $1.2 million in total damages.
To be considered "reportable," nautical accidents counted in the report must involve death, disappearance or significant injury; or cause more than $2,000 in damages.
Other counties with high accident numbers were Palm Beach (58), Broward (41), Lee (41), Pinellas (36) and Collier (34). Hillsborough reported 20 significant boating accidents but a state-high seven deaths. Broward matched Monroe County’s six boating deaths.
Falling overboard was the most common fatal boating accident. Drowning was ruled as the cause of death in two-thirds of the fatalities. Of the 67 deaths, 62 were men.
Florida boaters statewide endured fewer reportable crashes in 2010 with 668, but there were 79 deaths that year.
Florida’s boat registrations continued to decline from more than 1 million in 2005 to 2008 to 922,491 in 2011.
"Up to 1 million nonregistered boats actively use Florida’s waters," says the FWC accident report, "and this segment of the boating population appears to still be growing."
Boats not requiring registration are those less than 16 feet and not powered by engines. Other facts from the 2011 Florida boating-accident report:
Of the 742 accidents involving 1,018 vessels, boats hit other boats or stationary objects in 313 cases.
Careless operation was the most common accident trigger, cited in 156 incidents. Next were mechanical failure, operator inattention, operator inexperience, bad weather and speeding.
Hours between 2 and 6 p.m. were the most dangerous times of the day. August and November were the deadliest 2011 months, each with nine fatalities.
Alcohol was linked to 10 boating deaths in 2011. There were 308 arrests statewide for boating under the influence last year, down from 323 in 2010.
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