JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Rising temperatures might be inspiring Jacksonville-area boaters to take to the water.
But the Coast Guard wants boaters to get their ducks in a row when it comes to safety before they leave the docks.
Coast Guard personnel are expecting a busy boating season as summer approaches, but they said many boaters forget to do a proper safety check.
"When they bring it out, there's a lot of expired gear that were in service last summer,” Chief Petty Officer Jimmy Allen said. “This right here is a strobe light. When they expire, they may work, but you don't want to take that chance."
Boaters are advised to check and replace any flares or safety beacons that appear to be worn or broken.
Allen said life jackets are the most important tool every boater must have and showed some different options.
"This is just a different style and is a great one for infants and children with a strap below to keep them from sliding out,” Allen said.
In Florida, each boat must have the proper-sized life vest for everyone on board. On boats that are at least 3 nautical miles offshore, each person 13 and under must wear a vest at all times. They're more likely to be a life saver if worn properly and zipped up, the Coast Guard said.
In 2015, the Coast Guard reported nearly 430 drownings in the U.S., and 80 percent of those people were not wearing a life jacket. That's why Coast Guard crews take boating safety enforcement seriously.
"We found that the more boardings we do; the more vessel safety checks we do, the less search and rescue cases we have; less boating accidents and less deaths on the water,” Allen said.
The Coast Guard Auxiliary also offers free vessel safety checks. Advisers will board a boat and check that all the needed safety equipment, like buoys and life vests, are there. For more information and locations, go to http://www.cgaux.org/vsc.
For boaters who stored their boats and trailers during the winter months, the Coast Guard also wants them to double check their trailer tires and make sure their boats are attached properly.