FWC emphasizes boating safety for holiday

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – More than 600 people died in boating accidents in America last year.

That's part of the motivation for law enforcement to step up enforcement on a holiday weekend like Memorial Day, when so many people get out on the water for the first time this season.

“This is one of the busiest (times),” said Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Lt. Paul Arkin. “The reason being, Memorial Day is the kickoff basically of summer for a lot of folks.”

Arkin took News4Jax on a ride along Monday on the St. Johns River.

He discussed some of the safety concerns, including boaters who drink and drive.

Arkin showed us what the experts look for when it comes to things like jet skis, and reminded boaters the importance of properly displaying their registration numbers.

"The reason I'm coming to talk with you is because I don't see your registration numbers on board,” Arkin said to one boater.

"You don't? They're on this side,” the 14-year-old boater said.

"OK. You have got to have them on both sides,” Arkin said.

Arkin pointed out that the boater had a kill-switch lanyard attached to his life jacket and both people on the boat were wearing life jackets, which is proper safety procedure.

“Be patient,” Arkin warned boaters. “There's a lot of new, inexperienced boat operators who are out for the very first time.”

Arkin said the FWC also wants to stress to boaters the importance of not being impaired by alcohol while operating a boat.

“Consuming alcoholic beverages and operating a vessel impaired, we have zero tolerance for (that),” Arkin said.

For more on boating safety, go to http://myfwc.com/boating/safety-education.

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