What You Should Know About Renting a Boat on Your Trip to Florida
South Florida’s beautiful beaches and crystal blue water attract tourists from around the world. Renting a boat or a personal watercraft (PWC) is an enjoyable way to explore the state’s miles of coasts, rivers and lakes.
Before you hit the water, familiarize yourself with the Florida vessel safety laws to minimize risk of injuries and avoid legal problems. An accident can spoil the trip of a lifetime — and potentially cause permanent or fatal injuries.
Here are some important points to remember:
- Boating under the influence (BUI) is a crime in Florida — Boating while under the influence of alcohol is unlawful and dangerous. Florida Statute 327.35 sets the minimum blood alcohol level (BAC) at 0.08 for operation of a boat. However, the heat and movement of the waves can actually increase the effects of alcohol, so boaters may be considered impaired at a level below the threshold.
- Florida sets a minimum age for driving and renting a personal watercraft — A person must be at least 18 years old to rent a personal watercraft in Florida and must be at least 14 years old to operate the PWC. Boat operators under the age of 21 must carry proof of safety training. Rental companies should know these laws, so think twice before renting from a vendor that does not comply.
- Vendors must provide boating safety instructions — Under Florida Statute 327.39, a PWC owner that does not provide you with instructions about safe handling of the watercraft may be charged with a misdemeanor.
- Driving recklessly can land you in trouble — The water feels deceptively safe. However, a collision with another boat, a dock, a buoy or a swimmer can have devastating consequences.
- Watch out for swimmers and divers — You can avoid hurting swimmers by staying out of designated swim areas and watching out for divers’ down flags, which indicate that a person is in the water. Also, be on the lookout for other potentially reckless boaters while you are in the water.
If you were hurt in a boating accident during your Florida vacation, consult with a Fort Lauderdale personal injury lawyer who knows the state’s vessel safety regulations and can help you take appropriate legal action.