Boating safety stressed on this busy Memorial Day weekend

South Florida officials are warning boaters to follow safety precautions during what is expected to be a crowded holiday weekend on the waterways.

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. – Major Alfredo Escanio of Florida Fish & Wildlife says that activity on the water “ramps up” on Memorial Day weekend, making it “probably the busiest holiday weekend in the state.”

The month of May is also one of the most dangerous in Florida for boaters. Officials from several agencies that patrol South Florida waters are urging people to be responsible and safe this long holiday weekend.

“Wear your life jacket,” Escanio said. “We have statistics that show over 50% of boating fatalities are tied to drowning. ... Had a person been wearing a life jacket, that could have saved their lives.”

Along with life jackets, officials remind people to make sure their safety equipment is up to date and in working order, especially a marine radio to listen for and report emergencies.

The most recent data shows Florida leads the country in boating fatalities, and when it comes to boating under the influence, law enforcement is sending a clear message.

“We don’t cite for boating under the influence. We don’t issue warnings for boating under the influence. You’re arrested for boating under the influence,” Escanio said.

Officials also spoke about a growing trend that has been causing safety concerns — jet skis racing around in crowded areas.

Many people on personal watercraft, officials say, are renting the equipment and new to the crowded waterways.

“Especially a weekend like this where you have congested waterways, if you’re going to be operating a jet ski, please be responsible be mindful of the speed,” Escanio said.

The sandbars are open this Memorial Day weekend, though there is a rafting ordinance that limits the number of vessels that can be tied together at the sandbars to five.

About the Author:

Amy Viteri is an Emmy Award-winning journalist who joined Local 10 News in September 2015. She's currently an investigative reporter and enjoys uncovering issues facing South Florida communities. A native of the Washington, D.C., area, she's happy to be back in South Florida, where she earned a masters degree at the University of Miami.