florida keys

Miami-Dade more dangerous than Keys for boaters



Florida Keys waters have finally surrendered the dubious title of the state's most dangerous place to go boating, but only because Miami-Dade County became more hazardous.

In 2013, Miami-Dade County, for the first time in many years, exceeded the Keys as the most dangerous county with 104 accidents, a sizable jump of 28 percent from 2012.

However, Monroe County still stands second among Florida's 67 counties in terms of boating mayhem with 100 significant vessel accidents in 2013, according to the state's annual Boating Accident Statistical Report, released Friday by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Monroe County also had 100 reported boating accidents in 2012.

Miami-Dade County also recorded a state-high $1.66 million in boat damages from its 104 accidents. Monroe County was second at $937,500, with Palm Beach County third at $927,650 from 56 accidents.

The report focuses on reported accidents involving death, injury or damage exceeding $2,000.

The Keys recorded five boating-related deaths in 2013, the same number as in 2012, and a state-high 56 injuries, according to the report. Only Pinellas County, with eight boating-related fatalities, had more deaths.

Miami-Dade reported four 2013 boating deaths. Dive or snorkeling deaths are not classified as boating-related.

Statewide, the number of reportable boating accidents increased to 736 in 2013, up from 704 the year before. There were 62 boating deaths, an increase of seven from 2012. Still, the 62 is the third-lowest total in the past decade; there were 80 boating deaths in 2005.

Nearly three-quarters of the boating deaths were attributed to drowning.

"There's an easy fix. Wear a life jacket," said Lt. Seth Wagner, an FWC safety specialist.

The most common cause of Monroe County boating accidents, in 20 investigations, was "operator inexperience." Other common causes were failing to keep a lookout (13 accidents), operator inattention (12), carelessness (9) and speeding (8).

In the Keys, hitting a fixed object or another boat accounted for 44 accidents.

"The leading type of accident [statewide] continues to be boaters colliding with other boats or objects," Wagner said. "It's important to pay close attention to everything that's going on around you."

Open motorboats were involved in 51 local accidents, with personal watercraft accounting for 31. Monroe County accounted for 22 percent of the state's 137 PWC accidents.

Read more Miami-Dade stories from the Miami Herald

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