With more than 320,000 registered boaters in western Florida, the Coast Guard stresses to the boating public that Florida's waterways will be especially dangerous during this Independence Day celebration and reminds boaters to be safe while on the water.
In order to help everyone on the water enjoy their July 4th holiday and stay safe, Coast Guard law enforcement crews will be patrolling, conducting safety checks and watching for people boating while intoxicated or operating in an unsafe manner. The public should be more aware of their surroundings, including watching the weather and understanding the hazards of boating under the influence of alcohol.Weather conditions can change instantaneously, especially during the summer months. The National Weather Service broadcasts marine weather forecasts regularly. The forecast can be heard by tuning into channels One through Five on VHF marine radios or by checking the NWS website at http://www.nws.noaa.gov/.
In addition to monitoring the weather, boaters are reminded of the dangers of drinking and boating. Being out in the sun and wind all day can make the effects of alcohol more intense. The marine environment is inherently dangerous. The addition of alcohol to the mix can be deadly. Nearly 30% of all recreational boating fatalities can be attributed to alcohol.
In addition to decreasing the operator's ability to use sound judgments, the consumption of alcohol also negatively affects the ability of passengers to respond in the case of an emergency on the water.
Intoxicated boaters can face both federal and state charges with penalties of up to one year in prison and up to $100,000 in fines.
The Coast Guard reminds boaters not to use emergency flares as celebratory fireworks. Flares should only be used in times of distress. Boaters are also reminded to always wear their life jackets, file a float plan with a friend or family member, have a working VHF radio and EPIRB on board. Finally, remain vigilant and observe safety and security zones while on the water this Independence Day weekend.
"Make the 4th of July a happy one, and a safe one", said Joseph A. Servidio, Commander of Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg, Fla. "File a float plan (make sure someone knows where you're going and when), have and know how to use your safety equipment, and have a designated boater, any sparks that fly should be lighting up the night sky and not on the water."
Additional information on safe and secure boating practices can be found at the Coast Guard's Office of Boating Safety page at http://www.uscgboating.org/ or by calling (800) 368-5647.