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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer for many in South Florida. It’s also one of the busiest weekends on the water for boaters.

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The Coast Guard reminds all boaters that safety starts at the dock before you board your boat.

One of the most important pieces of safety equipment that should be aboard every vessel is the life jacket. Everyone needs to have a life jacket.  Children under the age of six are required to wear them.

Over 80 percent of all drownings can be attributed to not wearing a life jacket; nobody knows when an accident will occur so wearing a life jacket helps alleviate the panic of finding one in case of emergency.

Also, it’s a great idea to file a float plan or let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to be back. The Coast Guard, along with state and local law enforcement first responders will then have the ability to start a search quicker if we know where to begin.

In Florida, drinking while boating is a big problem, so it’s important to have a designated a sober skipper. Only a third of the alcohol needed to ma
ke a person impaired on the road can make a person equally impaired on the water, so use extreme caution when drinking this weekend.

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Boaters are also urged to stay alert for dive flags. They can be fined $90 for coming too close to a diver.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife officials inattentiveness of the boat operator often contributes to boating accidents.

If you are heading out on the seas, you should:

  • Have life jackets
  • Share your plan
  • Monitor the weather
  • Have a designated sober operator

Boaters should expect to see extra patrols on the water and shouldn’t be alarmed if they are stopped for a routine check.

Boating safety is key during the active summer months. Florida leads the nation in both boating accidents and boating deaths. Last year there were 261 boating accidents involved collisions and 67 boating-related deaths.

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For boaters planning to leave U.S. waters and return later, U.S. Customs and Border Protection now has a new mobile app that makes re-entry easier. The Reporting Offsite Arrival Mobile (ROAM) app is a mobile application that allows travelers arriving via pleasure boat to report their U.S. entry through a smartphone or tablet.