TAMPA, Fla. — Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer, and Floridians are taking full advantage of that by enjoying the water that surrounds the Sunshine State.
More boats on the water mean more Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers patrolling, looking for anyone operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
"We can usually tell this by their mannerisms, how they’re driving. If they are weaving in and out of vessels, if they are cutting people off, they’re not paying attention to their surroundings," FWC Officer Ashley Tyer explains how to spot an impaired driver. "And then we are also going to be checking just safety equipment. Wearing a life jacket is key and that’s going to be on the top of our list."
Every person who is on a vessel must have a life vest. At the Gandy Boat Ramp, there’s a loaner program for children's life vests. The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office operates the Honor System Program and supplies the area with over a dozen vests.
The number one way to stay safe is to boat sober.
Even though the weekend is fun, sailing sober is key to keeping yourself and others safe.
“When you mix alcohol, the sun, the wind, the rocking of the vessel, your impacts are going to be greater. You’re actually going to feel the impacts of the alcohol more than you would any other day," Tyer explained.
On this long weekend, the focus should be on our fallen soldiers who gave the greatest sacrifice.
“You know this is a special weekend for our fallen soldiers. I’m a former marine myself, and you know, that’s what this weekend is about. Our freedoms” said Captain John Rivers of 'Rivers to Bay Fishing Charters.'
The leading cause of boating fatalities in 2018 was drowning, according to the FWC. Nineteen percent of boating fatalities involve alcohol.
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