- Associated Press - Saturday, May 24, 2014

MIAMI (AP) - Florida wildlife officials are urging boaters to keep safe while out on the water this Memorial Day weekend.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says its officers have responded to 236 accidents so far this year, including 11 fatalities.

There were 736 accidents reported last year, and out of 62 boating fatalities, 38 were due to drowning, officials said. The highest number of boating accidents were reported in May, and the deadliest month was December with 12 fatalities.

According to the commission, drugs or alcohol played a role in 15 percent of the boating fatalities last year. The total number of fatalities includes eight people whose bodies were never found.

Miami-Dade County led the state with 104 boating accidents and four fatalities. Ten other counties with high numbers of boating accidents were: Monroe, Broward, Palm Beach, Collier, Lee, Pinellas, Hillsborough, Brevard, Duval and Okaloosa.

Florida leads the nation in the number of vessels registered in the state - 896,632 registered boats last year, according to the commission.

The commission offers these basic tips for boating safety: Plan ahead and pay attention. Boat operators need to keep an eye on their surroundings, including weather, waves, wildlife and objects like waterway markers, docks and other boats.

The FWC reports that boat operators failing to pay attention remains the leading cause for boating accidents. FWC officers patrol waterways to check that boaters have the appropriate gear and are operating safely.

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