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Bringing Boat Laws To Light For Safer Sailing

Bringing Boat Laws To Light For Safer SailingIn Florida, boating knows no season. While the rest of the country suffers through beastly cold wind chills, we are flourishing in the sunshine. Going out on the boat is a way of life, but there are a few things that every boater should remember in order to keep passengers and crew safe and sound for the next trip out.

Leading The Way In Accidents

Unfortunately, Florida leads the nation in boating accidents and deaths related to those accidents. Though there are several laws on the books in regards to boating safety, many feel that the accidents come from lack of experience and common sense.
After all, there is no minimum age requirement to operate a boat, and there are no boating courses required for those born before 1988. This gives freedom to many people to simply hop in and go without really understanding what they should be doing.

Important Safety Regulations

The most important safety regulations can save a life when implemented. They include:

• All boats must have at least one life vest/life preserver that is sized correctly for each person on the boat. They must be U.S. Coast Guard Approved (USGC).
• Vessels that are 16 feet or longer must have one Personal Flotation Device (PFD) attached to a rope that can be thrown to anyone who falls overboard.
• Children under age six must wear a USCG approved life jacket at all times on vessels less than 26 feet long.
• Anyone on a personal watercraft, such as a Jet Ski or Wave Runner, must wear a USCG approved life preserver.

Outside of these laws, the rest is up to the operator’s common sense. Many times, distractions can stop the operator from keeping a proper lookout. In fact, this was the leading cause of accidents in 2016. Weather plays another important role and operators should keep a strict eye on conditions, and take care not to go out in winds that are above 15mph.

Boating Under The Influence

Driving under the influence of alcohol on a public street or roadway can get you a DUI. Operating a boat while under the influence can get you a BUI. The standard limit of .08 is the same, but since there is no minimum age required to operate a boat in Florida, anyone under the age of 21 must have a BAL lower than .02.

Law enforcement can stop a boater for any reason and subject them to a Breathalyzer test; though the driver of a motor vehicle can refuse this test, it is mandatory for a boat operator.

The penalties for BUI are:

• First Offense: $1,000 fine, up to six months in jail, probation up to one year, drug evaluation and treatment, 50 hours of community service, and vessel impoundment for 10 days.
• Second Offense: $2,000 fine, up to nine months in jail. If the 2nd conviction is within five years after the first conviction, mandatory jail for 10 days is included and as a probation condition, the vessel must be impounded or immobilized for 30 days.

Enforcement is seen a large problem. Though many times people pull up and dock at local waterside bars and clubs, boaters are pulled over much less frequently than motor vehicle operators.

Following the rules, using common sense, and staying ever watchful can keep boating adventures fun and safe for everyone all through the year.

Michael J Babboni