July 27th, 2012 - by DKRPA
The state of Florida does not require the operator of a boat to have a “driver’s license,” so to speak, to operate such a vessel. However, people born on or after January 1, 1988 are required to take a boating safety course to ensure that they can handle a boat properly and that they know what to do in an emergency.
A 15-year-old teen in Tampa Bay, Florida ignored this rule (and, seemingly, the directions of his parents) when he took his family’s 280-horsepower boat out on the lake with a few friends. The friends were trailing behind the boat in an inner-tube when the 15-year-old drove the boat too close to a dock, forcing the inner-tube into the shoreline and causing a massive collision that killed one of the passengers.
The fatal accident has generated a lot of criticism, both for the circumstances of the crash and the rules and regulations that moderate boat pilots. The teen was only able to operate the boat, which had been purchased only a month ago, because he took the keys while his parents were gone.
In addition to the seemingly lax regulations regarding boat operation mentioned above, there is no parental verification required when a young person goes to the boating safety course.
Boats are inherently dangerous vehicles (especially for younger operators), because the environment in which they are operated is much more foreign than the road. It is more difficult to navigate, turn, brake and properly operate a boat than a car. And yet, the rules allow basically anyone to drive a boat without much education. Should Florida consider amendments to its boating laws to prevent unfortunate fatal accidents like this from occurring in the future?
Source: Tampa Bay Times, “Boat involved in fatal accident had been owned by family for only a month,” Laura C. Morel, July 19, 2012
Our firm handles similar situations to the one discussed in this post. If you would like to learn more about our practice, please visit our Palm Beach County personal injury page.