Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Boating Safety, Boating Laws Stressed for July Fourth

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Boating Safety, Boating Laws Stressed for July Fourth

Article excerpt

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and U.S. Coast Guard officers will be out this weekend urging boaters to exercise caution.

They'll be vigorously enforcing boating laws, stepping up enforcement of speed limits and checking for drinking alcohol.

"Florida is a wonderful place to go boating, but we want to make sure your enjoyment is all it should be by asking you to pay close attention to everything happening around you while on the water," said Capt. Richard Moore, the Conservation Commission's boating safety administrator.

The Fourth of July is one of Florida's busiest boating times of the year. Many of the state's 900,000 registered recreational vessels will be on the water during the extended holiday.

Boaters will also be exposed to unusual situations. Many fireworks shows take place on or near the water, which means many boats will congregate in fairly small areas to watch, and once the shows are over, those boaters will have to maneuver in dark, crowded waters.

Inexperienced night operators should be extremely careful in fireworks areas, Moore said.

Drinking and boating is another major boating safety concern that is every bit as serious as drinking and driving. Officers will evaluate intoxication levels of boat operators who have had too much to drink.

Their goal is to keep drunken boaters off the water since nearly 30 percent of all recreational boating fatalities can be attributed to alcohol.

In addition to decreasing the operator's ability to make good judgments, the consumption of alcohol negatively affects passengers' ability to respond in the case of an emergency on the water.

Intoxicated boaters can face federal and state charges with penalties of up to one year in prison and up to $100,000 in fines.

Another important factor for boaters to consider is that weather conditions can change quickly, especially during the summer. …

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