Expect congested waterways July 4th weekend
Thursday, June 30, 2011
Media contact: Joy Hill, 352-258-3426
Nearly 1 million recreational vessels are registered in Florida,
and thousands more are brought in by tourists each year to enjoy
the state's boating opportunities. Many thousands of these boats
will be cruising the St. Johns River, the Intracoastal Waterway and
the many popular lakes and rivers in the northeast and central part
of the state while celebrating the July Fourth weekend.
Unfortunately, these busy holiday weekends too often end
tragically for some boaters. And these tragedies are usually
"If boaters practice three main safety tips, their chances of
having a safe, fun and positively memorable time on the water will
increase exponentially," said Maj. Paul Ouellette, the FWC's
Northeast Region law enforcement commander.
- Pay attention to what you're doing and what's going on around
- Don't drink or take drugs and operate a vessel.
- Wear a life jacket or at the very least, have life jackets
within easy reach.
Ouellette said every available FWC officer in the FWC's
Northeast Region will be out this weekend to help boaters stay
"Obviously, there will be increased boating traffic on the
Fourth, and when you combine that with people being out on boats
partying and out at night to watch fireworks displays, there's more
of a risk of mishap," Ouellette said. "What we're saying is to stay
sober, be careful, and pay attention to everything going on around
you on the water."
Statistics show that the No. 1 cause of boating accidents
in Florida is careless operation - people who are not paying
attention to what they're doing while operating a vessel. That
means everything from watching where you're going to obeying
manatee and other speed-restricted zones, to keeping an eye on
weather conditions, to monitoring the vessel's occupants' actions,
and making sure you have all the required boating safety equipment
on board and readily available.
Being under the influence of drugs or alcohol is another factor
that contributes to all too many boating tragedies.
"For everyone's safety, boaters who intend to drink or take
drugs should always designate a sober, qualified person to operate
the vessel," he said. "But even those not operating a vessel should
drink only in moderation.
"A lot of injuries and even deaths occur when passengers who are
drinking fall and get hurt, or fall overboard and drown," Ouellette
The FWC encourages people to report impaired or suspected
impaired boaters to the FWC's toll-free Wildlife Alert Hotline at
888-404-FWCC (3922). Callers may stay anonymous and are eligible
for a reward if their information leads to an arrest. But more
importantly, reporting impaired boaters may save lives.
One more thought to keep in mind: If people would simply wear
life jackets, many lives would be saved each year. The law states
that there must be one properly fitted, U.S. Coast Guard-approved
life jacket for each person on board the vessel, and that children
under the age of 6 must be wearing theirs. If people are not
wearing them, the life jackets should at least be easily accessible
in one step, not stowed away in a compartment.
For more on how to be safe while boating, go to