ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. -- The Coast Guard is reminding people to boat responsibly during the Fourth of July.
Coast Guard crews will be on the water conducting safety checks. They will also keep a lookout for boat operators who are intoxicated or operating in an unsafe manner.
Independence Day is a holiday known for drinking and boating -- and deadly accidents.
During 2012, alcohol was the leading contributing factor in nearly 17 percent of recreational boating fatalities in the United States.
Of all 50 states, Florida had the highest number of alcohol-related accidents and injuries, and the second highest number of alcohol-related boating deaths.
“We want people to enjoy their time on the water during the Fourth of July and throughout the summer, but we will not tolerate intoxicated boating,” said Lt. David Kelley, of the Sector Jacksonville enforcement division.
Kelley said, “We’ll be working closely with our federal, state and local partners to keep those operating in an unsafe manner off the water.”
The Coast Guard is also reminding boaters that flares are to be used for emergencies only, not as fireworks. Improper use of flares may divert valuable search assets from an actual distress case and put rescuers unnecessarily in harm’s way while responding to the false alarm.
The following are additional things boaters should do to ensure their safety on the water:
- Always wear a life jacket. Since there is little time to reach for stowed life jackets when accidents occur, wearing one at all times reduces the risk of drowning. Federal law requires a personal flotation device aboard for each passenger.
- Carry a VHF-FM marine-band radio. If you are in distress, you can reach the Coast Guard on marine-band channel 16, the distress channel. The Coast Guard, other rescue agencies and other boaters monitor marine band radios 24/7, which increases the number of people who can respond. Though a cellphone is better than no communication device at all, they tend to have gaps in coverage while on the water and have limited battery life.
- Have a float plan. A float plan is a life-saving device on paper that lets family and friends know when and where you embarked and expected time of return. File a float plan with someone who will not be on the water and stick to the plan. If you change plans, contact the person. A float plan saves valuable time by providing responders with vital information about an overdue boater who may be in distress.