Gary Shelton Darrell Fry
World & Nation
AP The Wire
Comics & Games
Home & Garden
Advertise with the Times
Safe Boating Classes
By TERRY TOMALIN, Times Outdoors Writer
© St. Petersburg Times, published May 5, 2000
The numbers are out. Boating accidents are on the decline, thanks to the hard work of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and the U.S. Power Squadron.
These volunteer groups, which regularly hold safe boating classes throughout the Tampa Bay area for a nominal fee, have educated thousands of new boat owners over the years, and statistics speak for themselves.
But while the overall numbers may be down, the leading cause of accidents in 1999 was still careless operation. About three out of four operators involved in accidents had no formal boating education.
Another alarming statistic showed that while personal watercraft made up only 9.8 percent of the registered boats in Florida, they were involved in 31.8 percent of the accidents and 52 percent of the injuries.
National statistics show that eight out of 10 personal watercraft accidents involve a collision with another boat, often another personal watercraft.
Many of these personal watercraft operators are new to the sport. They follow each other too closely, lose track of the other boat and end up in a collision if they make a sudden turn.
Always look in all directions for other boats, skiers, divers, swimmers and other personal watercraft. Don't jump the wakes of other boats.
Many deaths could be avoided if everyone wore life jackets, refrained from drinking and driving and took time to learn the rules of navigation.
To find out about the safe boating class nearest you offered by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary or U.S. Power Squadron, call (800) 336-BOAT.
Get a copy of the booklet "How to Boat Smart," published by the Florida Marine Patrol and the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission. Florida Marine Patrol -- (800) DIAL-FMP, or Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission -- (850) 488-4676.
© St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.