Tampa Bay, Florida - A warning for boaters tonight, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission is stepping up patrols and cracking down on safety rules. There were 9 boating fatalities last year because of alcohol and drug use - and they think this year could be worse. 10 News reporter Sarah Hagen tells how Operation Dry Water aims to prevent that.
FWC says this boating season is on pace to exceed accidents - compared to last year – that's why patrols are out this weekend - today through Sunday.
"Our whole job with operation dry water - make sure the 15 % of fatalities which involved alcohol, drugs - are prevented," said FWC officer Baryl Martin. Operation Dry Water is a national campaign. It's mission: keep people safe.
10 News and FWC approached a boater in Tampa Bay for a safety check.
"Alright what do you need?" the operator asked. "One adult life jacket, which I see right there."
Flares, horn, fire extinguisher, throw-able flotation device , license, registration - check. With no red flags here - this boater passes. "Good luck sir, be safe."
FWC throttles forward and continues patrol. "He had everything he was supposed to have. if everyone had *that our job would be easier." Officer Baryl Martin says while safety is important – so is sobriety. They only check for drinking - if there are warning signs. "We look for signs of impairment, reckless careless manor, odor of alcohol." And they say - sun and wind can cause fatigue. They say those and other conditions on the water can intensify the effects of alcohol.
"A BUI is just like a DUI - .08 and huge fines, you'll go to jail if you get caught."
Also on the FWC's radar, Jet skies. They say when you look at this area locally, compared to statewide - Tampa Bay ranks at the top for those kind of accidents. When driving a jet ski - the same rules apply.
Have more questions about these regulations? Click here for the FWC's complete list of Florida Boating Regulations.
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