JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It’s the final day of “National Boating Safety Week” and if you plan to get out on the water for the holiday weekend, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has a warning for you.
The big message ahead of Memorial Day Weekend, and really any time you’re out on the water, stay sober.
Just like when you’re behind the wheel on the road, drinking while operating a boat is dangerous, not to mention a crime. Last weekend, three people in Jacksonville were arrested for operating a boat while intoxicated.
But with vacationers expected to flood the beaches and waterways on Memorial Day Weekend, Florida Fish and Wildlife officer Trevor Hausler said policing boozed boaters will be a constant battle.
“We enforce the BUIs regularly, almost on a daily basis here in Jacksonville. It’s a cancer that’s kind of taken over as a society. I would call, it’s a culture to be on a boat and drinking alcohol and it’s not safe,” Hausler said.
In 2019, FWC and other agencies handed out 649 citations for boating while intoxicated or under the influence. In 2020, citations were down to 528.
An uptick also in the rate of boating deaths in Florida (per 100,000 registered vessels)— Joe McLean (@JoeMcLeanNews) May 28, 2021
2016 - 7.2
2017 - 7.1
2018 - 6.2
2019 - 6.7
2020 - 8
Let's bring these numbers down in 2021, deal? Everyone, stay safe out there!
Info via @MyFWC. #News4Jax @wjxt4
Hausler said boating impaired can be as dangerous as driving drunk.
“It’s more of a dynamic fluid operation,” he said. “You have channel markers, you have you know, tide, current wind, stuff like that. Other vessels and there’s no streetlights, there’s no headlights, there’s no nice reflective white and yellow lanes in the road. So it’s, more of a dynamic situation that you have to be able to devote your full and undivided attention to and you can’t offer that if you’re impaired.”
According to FWC, alcohol or drugs were involved in 23% of boating death incidents in 2020.
Alcohol use is also tied for the most common cause of boating deaths, not counting miscellaneous causes.
Alcohol is not something to bring on your boat this weekend, but there are some things you are legally required to have on board before you push off.
- Personal Floatation Devices
- One approved for each person on board -- in addition, one throwable Type IV device for any vessel over 16-feet.
- It must be a USCG-approved device, in serviceable condition, and properly stored.
- Every person on board under the age of 6 must wear one while the boat is moving.
- Fire Extinguisher -- If your boat has a motor
- Must be USCG-approved and in serviceable condition
- Visual Distress Signal - for both day and nighttime use.
- Only required on high seas of coastal waters
- Sound-producing Device (bell, horn, whistle, etc.)
- Vessel Lighting
- Required to display navigation lights between sunset and sunrise and during periods of reduced visibility (fog, rain, haze, etc).