The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Division of Law Enforcement is reminding boaters to exercise caution and practice safety during Labor Day Weekend, a time of increased boating traffic on waterways.
The FWC especially urged boaters not to operate vessels under the influence, which can decrease the operator’s ability to make sound judgments, and negatively affects the ability of passengers to respond in the case of an emergency on the water.
“Labor Day is dedicated to the contributions and accomplishments of American workers, and we want boaters to safely enjoy this special day,” Maj. Rob Beaton, FWC’s Boating and Waterways section leader, said in a statement. “You can enjoy a holiday weekend safely on the water by wearing a life jacket, filing a float plan, taking a boating safety course and never operating any boat or other watercraft while under the influence.”
The FWC listed the following safe boating practices:
— Always wear a life jacket aboard a vessel. In 2020, Florida reported 79 fatalities from boating accidents, according to the FWC. The number one cause: drowning.
— Never boat under the influence. Have a designated sober operator. About 23% of last year’s boating accidents featured alcohol or drugs as a cause factor, according to the FWC.
— Have a float plan. Let family and friends know where you are going and when you will return. The sooner rescuers can get on the water and to the location of an overdue boater, the more likely the outcome will be positive.
— Purchase, register and have on board the boat an emergency locator beacon. This could be an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) or a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB). These devices can be used by any boater to ensure search-and-rescue teams find you quickly in the event of an emergency.
— Take a boating safety course. According to FWC boating accident statistics, 69% of operators involved in fatal boating accidents in 2020 had no formal boater education.
— Watch the weather. The National Weather Service broadcasts marine weather forecasts regularly by radio or check the NWS website at noaa.gov.
So, whether you choose to spend Labor Day Weekend on the water or laying out in the sun, do so safely!