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FWC offers tips, urges boater safety ahead of Memorial Day weekend

836 boating accidents in Florida last year
Boater, boating
Posted at 5:09 PM, May 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-25 17:44:48-04

JUPITER, Fla. — Boating is big in the Sunshine State with Florida leading the nation with nearly 1 million registered vessels.

That means a lot of boaters on the water and a lot of opportunities for crashes.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife officers shared some important safety advice ahead of the Memorial Day weekend.

Florida had 836 boating accidents last year, which is more than two a day. That number is a 16 percent increase from the year before.

Officer Tyson Matthews with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said as we head into Memorial Day weekend, it's important for boaters to have a plan every time they go out on the water.

"File a float plan with somebody simply telling them where you're going and what time you'll return," Matthews said.

Boaters need to remember there's a lot of required safety equipment that they need to have on their vessel at all times. Perhaps nothing more important than your life jacket.

FWC Officer Tyson Matthews
FWC Officer Tyson Matthews offers tips for boaters ahead of the holiday weekend.

"We recommend everybody wear (a life jacket) when they're on board because you never know when an accident is going to happen," Matthews said.

One life jacket should available for every person on board, and there are different sizes of life jackets based on weight.

Boats also need a sound-producing device, or a whistle, plus a Coast Guard-approved floating ring.

If you're going offshore, a flare is a must. There's also the option of wearing a personal locator beacon, which can release a signal for help if you're thrown from a boat.

"It's a tool that will potentially save your life or someone else's," Matthews said.

Out on the Intracoastal Waterway, two young boaters were going too fast Tuesday, prompting officers to stop them Tuesday.

Boater Christopher Guy
Boater Christopher Guy (right) discusses the need to have the proper equipment on your vessel.

One of the boaters was completing his captain's course, so they had all their appropriate safety gear.

"You want to know where everything is on your boat at all times. If something goes wrong, you want to know where to access it," said boater Christopher Guy.

Like on the roads, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said it's important to share the water and be aware of other boaters, manatees and to look out for dive flags.

"This means there are people in the water. They're not going to be able to get out of the way if a boat is coming. It's up to diver and the boater to pay attention to where they're at," Matthews said.

Anyone born after Jan. 1 1988 needs to have a boater safety card.