PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) — Public safety is the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s number one goal. With Memorial Day weekend ahead, officials are pushing boating safety to drivers on the water.
Boating safety is top of mind for FWC officials as they head into the busy boating season. They’re advising boat and jet ski drivers, as well as their passengers, to learn CPR and be able to swim.
“A common mistake we see is they have some life jackets on board, but they don’t have the correct ones. A child has to have the correct child-size life vest, not an adult one,” said FWC Public Information Officer, Robert Ramos.
Drowning is the number one cause of accidental death for young children. In the first three months of 2021, 19 children drowned here in Florida.
“In 2019, the last year of completed data, we had more than 400 individuals in the state of Florida who drowned. In 2019, there were more than 1,200 emergency room visits for near-drowning events and more than 400 of those were children,” said State Surgeon General of Florida, Scott Rivkees.
FWC officials say a majority of the accidents that do happen on a boat are completely preventable.
“We want to educate folks. The very important part of taking a boaters safety educators course, anyone that is born after January 1st, 1988, is required to take a boaters safety course. You can do it in a day, you can take it online for free on our website, myfwc.com.” said Officer Ramos.
Officer Ramos says 60% of the fatalities that took place last year, were people who never had any formal boat training.
“One of the leading causes of vessel accidents is that the operator was failing to maintain a proper lookout. They weren’t looking where they were going,” said Officer Ramos.
The rules for alcohol are very similar to those in a vehicle.
“The same .08 tolerance for vessels applies, but like vehicles. What we want to tell the public is to go out and have a good time but designate an operator that’s going to sustain from the use of alcohol,” said Ramos.