Thursday, October 28, 2021

Safe Boating Campaign



In May 2011, the Marco Island Police Department’s Marine Unit began its Summer of Safe Boating campaign. One element of that initiative was to review past vessel crashes to determine those facts or factors that could lead to a safer boating community, as well as more effective education and enforcement programs.

In 2010, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWCC), Collier County ranked 9th out of the sixty-seven counties in Florida for reported vessel crashes. Sadly, the majority of off-island crashes involved injury, including one crash involving a fatality. There were seventeen crashes outside of the City of Marco Island and ten within the municipality in 2010. Thankfully, none of the 2010 vessel crashes within the City of Marco Island involved serious injury.

To gain a broader and more accurate perspective, we examined the vessel crashes that took place over the past seven years on Marco Island. We determined the following basic facts:

  • Average number of crashes per year (does not include 2011): Seven.
  • There were 66 total vessels involved in 50 separate incidents.
  • 58% of the crashes involved a vessel striking a fixed object or person.
  • The Collier County statistics for this type of crash are nearly identical in 2010.
  • 42% of the crashes involved sinking, flooding, capsizing or fire.
  • 16% of the crashes involved injuries to thirteen specific individuals.
  • One crash, involving operation of a vessel under the influence of alcohol, resulted in injuries to five individuals.
  • 4% of all crashes involved alcohol or drug impairment.
  • The significant majority (64%) of crashes during this time span occurred in a canal or bay, while the remainder took place in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Personal watercraft (PWC) were involved in 39% of the crashes. This percentage is higher than the rate of PWC crashes in Collier County in 2010.

The two human dynamics which were the most frequent causative factors in crashes within the City of Marco Island were:

  1. Careless or reckless operation
  2. Operator Inexperience (usually less than 10 hours of boating experience)

The two most frequent primary causes of crashes in Collier County in 2010 were:

  1. Operator Inattention
  2. No Proper Lookout (tie)
  3. Operator Inexperience (tie)

The Marco Island Police Department will be using this data to tailor their educational and enforcement efforts in order to increase boating safety and decrease boating crashes.

Internal discussion has suggested that the geographic conclusions drawn from the Marco Island data is counter-intuitive. It was thought that most people believe that a canal or bay is safer than the Gulf. With respect to striking fixed objects, canals and bays have a much higher risk factor.

It is our conclusion that personal responsibility, good decision making, sound operational techniques, experience, and education are the human factors that can be focused on in order to reduce vessel crashes, injuries, and property damage.

Marco Island is indeed fortunate to have the two premier boating safety and educational entities: the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary and the Marco Island Sail & Power Squadron, on the island. Marco Island boaters are strongly encouraged to contact these organizations to increase their boating, area, and safety knowledge. For further information contact United States Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 95 (Marco Island) 394-5911. Marco Island Sail & Power Squadron 389-9587.


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