By Tamas Mondovics
The current and expectedly increasing traffic on the waterways across Hillsborough County this summer is putting boating safety center stage.
Before the Fourth of July celebration, Hillsborough County Sheriff Office’s Marine Unit is showing a much larger presence, while patrolling the waters of Hillsborough County with one purpose in mind; to keep boaters safe.
The Sheriff’s Office emphasized that its Marine Unit, which is part of the Homeland Security Division, will be enforcing Florida boating laws, monitoring slow and no-wake zones, looking for boaters under the influence of alcohol, patrolling restricted areas and performing boating safety checks.
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, in 2014 the USCG counted 4,064 accidents that involved 610 deaths, 2,678 injuries and approximately $39 million dollars of damage to property as a result of recreational boating accidents.
Of the more than 4,000 accidents last year, 581 crashes, or about one-in-seven nationwide, took place in Florida. Those crashes resulted in 70 fatalities statewide, including 12 deaths blamed on drunk boaters.
“The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office wants to emphasize the use of life jackets and safety equipment while boating in a safe and responsible manner,” said HCSO Public Information Officer Larry McKinnon.
One specific and returning topic that local law enforcement is focusing on is BUI or Boating Under the Influence.
“Along with the use of life jackets, HCSO wants to stress the responsible use of alcohol while boating and consider the effects of drinking and driving,” McKinnon said adding that in a boat on the water, the effects of alcohol increases because of external stressors such as engine vibration, wave motion and glare from the sun.
Boaters who do not have the required equipment may receive a civil citation. Citations range in cost from $53 for a non-moving violation to $90 for a moving violation.
Detailed information is available at /www.myfwc.com/RULESANDREGS/Rules_Boat.htm.