Pinellas Co. marine units crack down on boaters

7:12 PM, Sep 1, 2013   |    comments
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ST. PETERSBURG, Florida -- Marine units with the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office are cracking down on boaters violating the laws of the waterways.

"There is signage out there to tell you when you are approaching a zone and when you are in it," said Sgt. Brad Millican.

He watches year after year as boaters violate wake zones, speed limit laws, and intoxication.

"People aren't paying attention to their surrounding, like items in the water, channel markers, and we call it BUI. It's the same thing as if you are driving while under the influence on the roadways; you can't operate a vessel while you are drunk."

However, he still sees drivers drinking, and he still tests for intoxication the same way as he tests drivers on the road.

He also looks for life jackets on board. It is a $76 fine for each person missing a life jacket. Children six years old and under must wear a life jacket the entire time.

It's a $93 fine if you are ticketed for violating wake zones or speeding zones.

Jason Sanchez, his pregnant wife, and their two young children, Tucker and Sawyer, all have life jackets.

"We are always prepared on the water," said Ashley Sanchez. "Especially on the holiday weekend, because there are more people out on the water who usually are not out on the water and they do not know the rules like we do and they are usually not paying attention to other boaters."

"People get on wave runners, they have not a clue what is happening around them," said Jason. "They don't understand the current or regular rules; you know you pass to the right coming in. They don't ever look behind them, and there are boats behind them and they will just turn right in front of you, so you got to be on the lookout. "

The sheriff's office said every boater and wave runner should be equipped with a life jacket for each person, a whistle or horn, a fire extinguisher, a throw-out device, and flares. 

In 2012, 71 percent of all fatal boating accident victims drowned. Of those, the Coast Guard said almost 85 percent were reported as "not wearing a life jacket."

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