By CBSMiami.com Team

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.

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

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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 make a person impaired on the road can make a person equally impaired on the water, so use extreme caution when drinking.

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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.

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Florida had 836 boating accidents in 2020, which is 113 more accidents than in 2019, a 16% increase. A total of 79 people lost their lives last year in boating accidents, 14 more than the previous year, according to FWC.

CBSMiami.com Team