Authorities prepare for influx of boaters during Memorial Day Weekend

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – This week marks the official start of the boating season and National Boating Safety Week. The weekend also brings the unofficial kick-off of the summer, Memorial Day.

If tradition holds, the water will be packed with boaters enjoying the water. It’s why Florida Wildlife and Conservation (FWC) Officials are asking boaters ahead of time to make safety a priority this weekend.

“Especially with the number of boats that we’re anticipating this weekend, you need to be constantly scanning to see your surroundings whether there’s an underwater obstruction or another boat in your way things like that. There’s a number of different things people can do to stay safe this weekend and we’re going to be out there as well,” said FWC Officer Chad Weber.

More patrols will be out watching for people boating under the influence, too.

“People assume that since they’re on a boat that you know having a couple of drinks or more than a couple of drinks is okay, but the legal limit is .08 and if you’re above .08 we will arrest you and take you to jail," Weber said.

Drinking on the waterways is legal, but not for the operator of a vessel. FWC said if you want to have more than a couple of drinks, designate a sober operator.

You can report people who are boating dangerously. Call 888-404-FWCC (3922) or text Tip@MyFWC.com.

While boating under the influence is dangerous and illegal, there’s one safety measure that precedes sobriety. FWC said the first step to safety starts with a life jacket and knowing how to use it properly.

“You need to have a life jacket for everybody that’s on the boat. That is the main thing and we encourage life jacket wear, not just having them. It’s not a state law to wear them at all times unless you’re under the age of 6, but we encourage it highly if you’re out on the water to wear a life jacket," Weber said.

In addition to life jackets, be mindful of the following safety recommendations:

  • Check the weather before and during your trip.
  • Create a float plan and share it with family and friends in case of an emergency. A float plan includes information about what ramp you’ll be using and what time you plan to return.
  • Pay attention to surroundings while boating.

Find more ways to stay safe and prepared during National Boating Safety Week.

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