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Is Parasailing Too Dangerous? Florida’s Unregulated Industry

According to the Parasailing Safety Council (PSC) more than three to five million people each year enjoy the sport of parasailing. The ride normally lasts between 10 and 15 minutes.

A day of fun on the water can quickly turn into a terrifying experience which can and has resulted in serious or catastrophic injuries and even death. Since 1998, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission has reported that Florida has had 26 parasailing accidents that have resulted in 35 injuries and six deaths.

Yet the industry is allowed to operate following what they deem as “best practices” that are outside the bounds of any federal or state government oversight. They follow the minimum of safety standards, which are often voluntary and the quality levels vary. Their industry is virtually unregulated.

For example, parasailing boats don’t have to carry marine weather radios, they aren’t required to have insurance, they don’t face inspections of their ropes, and they have no rules about when sails must be replaced.

Many things can go wrong from changes in weather, equipment failure or operator error. Not to mention harm that can arise from the widespread existence of unlicensed and uninsured parasailing companies or operators with a poorly trained staff. Documented incidents have reported victims being dragged through palm trees, slammed into buildings and dropped hundreds of feet before being dragged under the water and drowned.

Several attempts to pass legislation in the state of Florida have failed. The latest attempt was this past summer where a bill passed one Florida Senate committee and then stalled. The Florida House of Representatives did not even hold a hearing on the subject.

Several Florida Senators pushing for change responsibly argue that the parasailing industry and tourism will be harmed if Florida is seen as a state that neither cares about the safety of its citizens nor its many visitors. They vow that in the 2014 legislative session, they will renew their efforts to pass a bill which would raise safety and insurance standards that govern the parasailing industry.

To prevent or reduce your risk of a Florida boating accident or parasailing accident, educate yourself on the sport and the company providing you with a parasailing experience. Do everything possible to ensure that adventure does not become a dangerous misadventure and protect yourself and your family from harm.