VILANO BEACH, Fla. - As the weather heats up, more people will be heading out on boats.
This week marks the official start of the boating season, and it's National Boating Safety Week.
Kim Dedmon was at the Vilano Beach boat ramp with her two kids and she heads out on the water often, but whenever she sets foot on her boat, safety always comes first.
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“You’re always concerned about the other boaters, and you hope they’re as safe as you are,” Dedmon said.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, there were 628 boating accidents in Florida last year that resulted in 59 deaths.
That number dropped from 67 fatal boat crashes each in 2017 and 2016.
The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary said the most common accidents they see are from people drinking too much or not paying attention.
As part of National Boating Safety Week, they’re conducting voluntary safety checks to make sure boaters have all the required equipment they need on board to be safe in the water.
They are checking for items like life jackets, fire extinguishers and navigation lights.
Once the checks are completed, they hand out safety decals.
“I believe that everybody should do it once a year, at least get their information up to date, and we did learn new information about the GPS tracking system,” said Robert Linares, a boater from Putnam County.
The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary said whenever you head out on the water, you should always bring a life vest. Children under the age of 6 are required by Florida law to always have them on.
FWC reports that last year, the leading cause of death in fatal boating accidents was drowning.
They said 29 people died as a result. Dedmon said that’s why life jackets are the first thing she checks off before going out on the water.
“We want to make sure the kids are safe, and then if anything happens, they’ll be ready to go. Second thing I always do is sunscreen, that’s the most important,” Dedmon said.
According to FWC, when it comes to the number of reported accidents on the water by county in Florida, St. Johns County ranks 16th, Duval is 17th, Clay is 24th and Nassau comes in at No. 41.
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