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    Florida: It’s Easy to be a Safe Boater

    Florida leads the nation in the number of boating accidents; last year there were 668.

    The good news? Overall, the number is down since 2004, when there were 743 recorded boating accidents. Still, this is not a distinction to be proud of. That is why the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) works diligently year-round providing education and resources to help boaters stay safe during their outings.

    Below are a few tips to keep in mind, which, if practiced, will help prevent a good day on the water from turning tragic.

    • Pay attention. Most boating accidents occur because the operator is not paying attention. When operating a vessel, people need to focus their attention on what’s going on in front, behind and on either side of their boat.
    • Wear a life jacket. It doesn’t matter if you are a good swimmer. If you are in a boating accident that throws you into the water, you may be instantly injured or rendered unconscious.
    • Stay sober. Being in command of a vessel is very serious and demands one’s full attention. Operating a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs can impair judgment and reaction time.
    • Don’t take your maiden voyage on a busy holiday weekend. Those who have never operated a vessel or personal watercraft shouldn’t make this weekend their first attempt. Most popular boating areas will be crowded, which could make the experience more difficult.
    • Check the weather forecast. Bad weather can pop up quickly in Florida. It just doesn’t make sense to be on the water, knowing the weather forecast is calling for storms.
    • Carry a charged cell phone. Anything can happen, so having a phone makes sense. You can also let folks at home know if you are going to be later than anticipated.
    • File a float plan. That just means let someone on land know where you are going and when you plan to return. If you’re late returning from your trip, that person can notify officials, who will have a place to start looking for you.

    Know the rules before you get on the water. Boating has rules, just like driving. Do you know what side of the channel you should drive on? Who has the right of way? Do you need a boater safety card? You can learn the rules and more at MyFWC.com/Boating.

    Joy Hill, 352-258-3426

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