Boaters: Think safety during Memorial Day weekend
Thursday, May 24, 2012
Media contact: Karen Parker, 386-758-0525
Memorial Day weekend generally means a lot of boats on local waterways.
“We want everyone to have a great time and enjoy their time on the water this weekend,” said Maj. Roy Brown, regional commander for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). “We also want everyone to be safe and make it back home alive.”
FWC law enforcement officers will be on patrol from Friday through Monday with an expanded presence on lakes, rivers and along the coast to help ensure a safe boating weekend.
According to statistics compiled by the FWC’s Office of Boating and Waterways, the No. 1 cause of boating deaths in Florida is drowning. This Memorial Day weekend, the FWC reminds people to wear their life jackets.
“The law says there must be one properly fitted, Coast Guard-approved life jacket for each person on board a vessel, and children under the age of 6 must be wearing their life jackets at all times,” Brown said.
However, just having life jackets on board is not enough. FWC officers who perform safety checks on vessels often find life vests stowed in a compartment where several steps are required to retrieve one. They regularly find life jackets still in their original plastic wrappers from the manufacturer.
“Life jackets that are not readily accessible are not in compliance with the law or its intent,” Brown said.
In an emergency, there is no time to dig around for a life jacket, let alone unwrap it and then try to adjust it so it doesn’t fall off. Boats can go down quickly, and boaters who get ejected are often unconscious. It is extremely important that people wear their life jackets, or at the very least, have them readily accessible and adjusted before an accident happens, Brown explained.
Wearing a life jacket isn’t the only thing that helps prevent serious accidents on the water, according to the FWC. The list below contains tips boaters should follow to keep boating adventures safe and fun.
Boating Safety Tips
- Be weather-wise. Consult weather forecasts before you begin your outing, and get off the water before bad weather hits.
- Make sure your boat and motor are in good working condition.
- Check all safety equipment, including life jackets, fire extinguishers, sound-producing devices and visual distress signals.
- Maintain a sharp, 360-degree lookout at all times for traffic and bad weather.
- Florida law requires children under 6 years old, and all people using personal watercraft or water skis, to wear life jackets.
- File a float plan. Tell a responsible person where and when you are leaving, where you are going and your estimated time of return.
- Carry a cellular phone, and be sure your VHF radio is working properly.
- Don't overload your boat with people or equipment.
- Everyone 21 years old or younger is required to complete an FWC-approved boater education course to operate most motorboats. The FWC encourages all boaters to take a boating safety course.
- Alcohol is a major contributor to boating fatalities. Often, impaired boaters come off the water and become impaired drivers, further endangering public safety. Don’t drink and operate a boat or vehicle.
If you would like more information boating safety or statistical information on Florida boating accidents, visit MyFWC.com/Boating.