TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida owns the dubious distinction of having the most boating deaths each year.
This year, 41 people have died in boating accidents across Florida. That's down from 49 deaths through the same period last year.
Florida's boating safety officers are working to prevent a repeat of last year when deaths on the water spiked toward the end of the year.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Investigator Andy Bickell says overboard falls are the leading cause of deaths.
Bickell says the state is trying to get people's attention with a public safety campaign encouraging them to wear life jackets.
"Develop a life jacket habit. We just constantly remind people to have their life jacket on and available. By the time the boat sinks, it's too late to grab it usually."
Florida recorded 67 boating deaths in 2011. The deadliest months were August and November.
Alcohol or drugs played a role in 15 percent of the boating fatalities. More than 90 percent of the victims were men.
Bickell urges boaters to be aware of what's going on around them on the water.
"Maintain a 360-degree scan. Just be safe on the water. Let somebody know where you're going. Let somebody know when you'll be back. That way if something were to happen, we know where to start looking for you at."
Monroe County had the highest number of accidents and injuries in 2011, but Pinellas and Miami-Dade counties were close behind.
First Coast News