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Casting off today? Be sure to choose a 'Sober Skipper'

Signs promoting safe boating campaign stenciled at local docks

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ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – Boating under the influence is one of the main factors contributing to recreational boating injuries, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

To promote boating safety ahead of National Safe Boating Week and Memorial Day weekend, the Sea Tow Foundation has created an initiative encouraging boaters to "Designate a Sober Skipper" before leaving the dock.

“People have been doing this in cars for a long time well before Uber and Lyft were ever an option,” Gail Kulp, Sea Tow Foundation executive director, said. “People have been designating a driver when they go out in groups to events that involve alcohol, so it should just make sense the same thing should happen for boats.”

Kulp said it’s important that whoever is in the captain’s chair stays sober at all times, especially with family and friends onboard.

The Sober Skipper campaign was launched five years ago in response to the number of boating accidents that were happening relating to boating under the influence. 

According to the USCG, there were 4,291 boating accidents involving about 658 deaths in 2017. At least 76% of fatal boating accident victims drowned.

The Coast Guard reported that alcohol is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents.

The St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office marine unit, in partnership with a pressure washing company and the Sea Tow Foundation, are working together to promote the Sober Skipper campaign.

They have been stenciling "Designate a Sober Skipper” signs at boat ramps throughout the county.  That way it’s one of the last things boaters see as they head out on the water. 

“Hey, maybe somebody should be their sober skipper on this trip and they can make that choice before getting out on the water,” Kulp said.

If you are interested in taking the pledge to be a sober skipper, click here.

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Multi-media journalist with a special interest in Georgia issues.