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Boating Accidents, Deaths Up In 2020

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LYNNE SLADKY / ASSOCIATED PRESS
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Florida waters last year were the deadliest for boaters in at least a decade, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The 2020 Boating Accident Statistical Report released Friday showed 836 boating accidents in 2020, the most in a year since at least 2011 and 16 percent more than in 2019.

Meanwhile, the state recorded 79 boating deaths in 2020, also the highest total since at least 2011. The deaths were up 21 percent from 2019. People falling overboard and drowning was the leading cause of death, according to the report.

The commission noted that 88 percent of the drowning victims were not wearing life jackets. Nearly half of the accidents last year involved collisions where often the attention of vessel operators was diverted or proper lookouts were not maintained.

“Many operators believe they are looking around, but they are not recognizing potential hazards or are distracted by dividing their attention between things like electronic devices or other occupants in the boat,” Lt. Seth Wagner, of the commission’s Boating and Waterways Section, said in a prepared statement.

Since 2011, the state has averaged 722 accidents and 65 deaths a year. Monroe County, which includes the Florida Keys, had the most accidents, 90, and deaths, nine, in 2020.

The other counties with the most accidents were Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, Pinellas, Lee, Okaloosa, Bay, Collier, Manatee, and Sarasota.