WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (WFLA) – This Independence Day weekend, expect to see heightened patrols on Tampa Bay waterways for the Operation Dry Water campaign.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) said July 4th is one of the busiest boating holidays. There are more than 950,000 boats registered in Florida and an estimated 1 million more that are non-registered.
Officers are checking to make sure boaters are following safety regulations, including that children are wearing life jackets, life jackets are on board for adults, and a whistle and fire extinguisher are handy.
Once they stop a boat for a safety check, officers immediately start looking for signs of impairment.
“Our statistics over Memorial Day, over a three day weekend in the Tampa area, we had 13 BUI’s [boating under the influence arrests]. We expect similar numbers but we’re hoping with increased presence, it will be a deterrent,” said FWC Officer Ashley Tyer.
FWC officers now have a mobile intoxilyzer, or breathalyzers, available on board which will make the process more efficient.
“The officers will be able to take the impaired people off the water and the officers can get back on the water to do some more patrols,” said Officer Tyer.
Officers on patrol will pull boaters or jet skiers over for operating too fast for the area, especially when in a no-wake zone.
Officer Tyer’s advice: operate sober and be aware of your surroundings.
“There’s going to be a lot of boaters out on the water. On these holiday weekends, you might have inexperienced boaters who don’t have a lot of practice out on a boat,” she said. “Make sure you slow down, take those extra minutes to know what’s going on around you. The number one calls on boating accidents is actually operator inattention. So just pay attention!”
Operation Dry Water runs through Sunday.
For more information about boating in Florida, visit the FWC website.