MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Memorial Day weekend is traditionally the start of summer and that means thousands of boaters will spend their holiday weekend on the water. That’s why safety officials are urging you to take care of yourself and your family on the water.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers and local police officers will be out in force over the weekend writing tickets, making arrests, and checking your boat to make sure things are safe.
They also want you to remember that the number one way to be safe is to wear a life jacket. And even if your kids complain, they need life jackets too.
“It would be in your best interest to have the child cry and wear the life vest, than you cry later on as a result of them losing their lives,” said Jorge Pino of FWC.
Having children wear life jackets isn’t just a suggestion, it’s the law. According to Pino, if you’re within three miles of the shore, all kids under 6 must wear a life vest. Farther out, federal law requires children under 13 to wear the life saving devices.
Coast Guard Lt. Commander Joe Abeyta has personally rescued someone who had to tread water for nine hours without a vest.
“I asked him ‘Where is your life jacket?’ He said, “I had it stowed below deck,’” Lt. Commander Abeyta said. “That’s the absolute worst place you can put your life jacket is below deck. He said it took 12 seconds from the time when the wave hit them to the time their vessel capsized.”
But officials will be focused on more than life vests. They’re looking for out of control boaters.
“We are out there patrolling the waterways in the state of Florida looking for people that are gonna be careless and reckless,” Abeyta said. “If you are careless; if you are reckless; if you are consuming alcohol, we will find you.”
If you are found to be impaired or causing other problems on the water; it could mean hefty fines or even jail time.
“Not to be a dark cloud over your party, that’s not what we’re here for,” said Pino. “We’re here to make sure you return back to your home safely.”
Officers also recommend you pack plenty of water. Paramedics say many of their calls are for dehydration. Also, be sure to have a first aid kit, a radio, beacon, flair gun, and life jackets for everyone on the boat.
It may not seem like a big deal, but it will if you’re left treading water to stay alive.
For more boating safety information click here: http://www.myfwc.com/boating/safety-education