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Lawmakers tackle issue of watercraft accidents in Fort Lauderdale, elsewhere in Florida

Though the numbers of fatalities involving watercrafts have been declining over the last 5 years, our Fort Lauderdale personal injury lawyers know that personal watercraft crashes and injuries are still a concern for Florida residents and tourists who visit the state on vacation.

Renting personal watercrafts is very popular among tourists but everyone needs to know the risk involved with these high powered machines in order to reduce the number of personal watercraft accidents in Fort Lauderdale.

Sponsored Bill 370 would raise the age to operate a personal watercraft from 14 to 16 years old.

The bill also wants operators of personal watercrafts born on or after Jan. 1, 1988, to have a boating safety ID card. This would mean attending and completing a boating safety class. This is the current requirement for those operating a motorboat of more than 10 horsepower.

House Bill 293 along with sponsored Bill 512 would eliminate criminal misdemeanor penalties for non-reckless accidents due to violating navigational rules. Navigational infractions that cause accidents that are deemed not reckless and don’t involve alcohol would incur fines.

The bills sponsor thinks that boating ‘fender bender’ incidents shouldn’t be going to criminal court. Accidents causing damage would have the following fines: first offenses up to $500, second offenses up to $750 and third and subsequent offenses up to $1,000.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in 2009 there were 143 personal watercraft accidents causing one fatality and 152 injuries and in 2008, there were 168 crashes causing 7 fatalities and 149 injuries.

From 2006 to 2009 a total of 42 people ages 16 or under were involved in personal watercraft crashes in the state.

Local business owners agree with increasing the age to 16, some already require potential renters of wave runners and jet skis to be 16 years old. Some of these watercrafts can reach high speeds in less than 5 seconds, which is too much horsepower for young riders.

Though the national watercraft association supports the bill, they think that 14- and 15-year-olds who already have a boating safety ID card should be grandfathered in.

If you have been injured in a Florida accident in West Palm Beach, Margate, Miami or Fort Lauderdale contact the personal injury attorneys at Freeman, Mallard, Sharp & Gonzalez. Call for a free and confidential appointment to discuss your rights. Call 1-800-529-2368.

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