If you live in Florida, it’s almost a guarantee that you spend at least some time on the open water. With nearly 1,200 miles of coastline and comfortably warm temperatures year-round, it would be difficult to convince yourself not to. But it doesn’t matter if you’re swimming, boating, fishing, scuba diving, or engaging in some other kind of water sport or activity – as enjoyable as our waters are, they can also be dangerous.
How dangerous? According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida had more boating fatalities than any other state in 2011 – 61 –and our state “overwhelmingly” leads all others when it comes to the unintentional drowning rate. And that doesn’t even touch on the non-fatal accidents that occur and often lead to hospitalization.
Types of Water Injuries and How to Avoid Them
What kinds of things happen? When people think about water accidents, drowning usually tops the list, but it’s not the only bad thing that can happen. People can slip and fall onto hard surfaces around pools, breaking bones and leading to spinal cord or head and brain injuries. They can get stung, bit, or harmed in other ways by water creatures when swimming in one of our many natural bodies of water. Boats can collide, causing injuries you might see in any motor vehicle accident. And people can get hurt or sick at water parks or on cruises.
That’s a lot to watch out for, and it’s not possible to guarantee you’ll be safe from everything, but there are some helpful tips that can protect you from several of the most common problems.
Don’t drink alcohol.This should be a no-brainer, but because far too many people associate the relaxation involved in boating and swimming with having a few drinks, it’s a rule that many of us ignore. Unfortunately, operating a boat requires similar wherewithal and reflexes to driving a car, so intoxicated boaters cause many accidents. And inebriated people are more likely to do things like fall and hurt themselves or even pass out in or near the water.
Watch your kids. More children age 1-4 die from drowning than any other cause. Which state has the most unintentional drowning deaths in not just this age group, but also 1-14? You guessed it – the Sunshine State. Children are also more likely to hurt themselves by acting inappropriately in the water if they aren’t supervised.
Remember: safety in numbers. Swimming or boating alone is a recipe for disaster, because if something does happen there’s no one around to help you. Never go out onto the open water alone.
Stay hydrated. It seems strange to need to drink water when you’re swimming and playing in so much of it, but most people have no idea how much they’re actually sweating. Dehydration can cause people to suffer from severe headaches and even pass out – not a good thing when you’re on or in the water.
Use the right equipment. Put fences around backyard pools. Keep life vests and flotation devices on hand. Perform regular maintenance checks on you boat and other equipment you use in the water.
Know what you’re doing. A shockingly high percentage of boating accidents occur because the operator doesn’t have any training, but it goes beyond boats. If you’re going to operate any kind of watercraft or equipment, you need to know how to use it, and anyone who goes out into deeper water or the ocean should know how to swim and be trained in CPR.
About the Author:
Andrew Winston is a partner at the personal injury law firm of Lawlor Winston White & Murphey. He has been recognized for excellence in the representation of injured clients by admission to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, is AV Rated by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, and was recently voted by his peers as a Florida “SuperLawyer”—an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state—and to Florida Trend’s “Legal Elite.”