Where the Most Boating Accidents Occur in FL (and How to Avoid One)

Where the Most Boating Accidents Occur in Florida (and How to Avoid One)

With fantastic year-round weather, great fishing, and warm tropical waters, it's no wonder Florida is America's #1 boating destination. Unfortunately, with the high number of boats on Florida's waterways, the Sunshine State has the highest number of boating accidents in the US. At Gemlux, we’re all about the Florida boating lifestyle and prioritize the safety of all boaters. 

Here's a look at the biggest boating accident hotspots in Florida and how you can stay safe.

Top Boating Accident Hotspots in Florida

1. The Florida Keys

The Florida Keys in Monroe County are consistently the biggest hotspot for boating accidents in the state. In 2022, there were 92 accidents in the Florida Keys, including eight fatalities. Most of the accidents happened in the waters between Key West and Islamorada. Almost half of the Florida Keys boating accidents involved collisions with other vessels or fixed objects. The cause of many incidents was determined to be due to operator inexperience or failure to maintain a proper lookout.

The Keys have more boats in the water and more inexperienced operators than any other place in Florida. Many crashes in the Keys occur when an inexperienced captain tries to dock and bumps into another boat.

2. Miami-Dade County

Miami-Dade County has the second-highest number of annual boating accidents in Florida. There were 90 crashes, including five fatalities there, in 2022, with half of the crashes involving other vessels. The vast majority of accidents happened between Key Biscayne and North Miami Beach — which is a crowded boating area due to the cruise terminal on Dodge Island.

Collisions with other vessels and fixed objects are the main types of accidents in Miami-Dade County, with operator inexperience being the leading cause of crashes.

3. Tampa Bay Area

The Tampa Bay area is widely recognized as a top destination for boating enthusiasts, even though it ranks only #8 in Florida counties regarding overall accidents. There were 23 accidents there in 2022, with one fatality. The FWC Division of Law Enforcement classified most of the crashes as being caused by "Other" — which sometimes indicates that alcohol may have been involved. Collisions with other vessels and fixed objects were once again the most common accident.

4. Intracoastal Highway

The Intracoastal Highway runs all the way from Boston, MA, to Corpus Christi, TX. However, a significant portion of it passes through the inlets, bays, and man-made canals surrounding Florida. This narrow waterway serves as a passage for many residents of Florida's coastal areas who wish to venture out into the vast Pacific Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico. Most of the accidents in Miami-Dade County listed above actually occur on the Intracoastal Highway due to the narrowness of the waterway and the sheer volume of boats on the water. 

5. Fort Lauderdale

Broward County's Fort Lauderdale is undoubtedly a well-known hotspot for boating. The area had 21 boating accidents in 2022, and thankfully, there were no fatalities. About a quarter of the accidents happened in the Atlantic Ocean. Like other spots on this list, operator inexperience and lack of a proper lookout were the leading causes.

Common Causes of Boating Accidents in Florida

As you've probably gathered by now, inexperienced operators are Florida's leading cause of boating accidents. Becoming adept at handling a boat takes a considerable amount of time spent behind the wheel. Florida is experiencing an influx of people keen on joining the boating community, and that's great to see! However, some individuals don't receive the necessary training to legally navigate a vessel, resulting in several crashes. The second most frequent cause of these accidents is failing to keep an appropriate lookout on the bow during tricky situations.

Lastly, equipment failure is the third-leading cause of Florida boat accidents. If a boat's belt snaps or the engine malfunctions, it can become tough to steer. Additionally, engine troubles can cause a fire on the vessel, which could be incredibly dangerous.

Safety Measures to Prevent Boating Accidents For Florida Boaters

Everyone born after Jan. 1, 1988 must have a boating safety education card to legally operate a vessel in Florida. Many new boaters often opt to take their training course online or through booklets. Unfortunately, this means they may lack real-world experience in operating a vessel. Theoretical knowledge can only take you so far, but practical know-how is vital when navigating a boat outside a textbook setting. Working with a mentor who can teach you the ins and outs of Florida boating should also be a priority.

In addition to training, use a lookout! Having a partner in the bow of the boat to guide the operator in tricky docking situations could immediately reduce the number of Florida boating accidents by one-fourth.

Resources and Tools for Safe Boating in Florida

Check out these Florida boating safety courses that can help you earn your safety education card:

Gemlux Wants You to Stay Safe on the Water

Boating accidents in Florida often occur in popular areas such as the Florida Keys, Miami-Dade County, and along the Intracoastal Highway. Boating should be a joyful and exciting experience for everyone involved, and knowing the proper safety precautions is extremely important. 

We prioritize "safety first" here at Gemlux and sincerely hope that everyone stays safe while enjoying their time on the water!