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Many parents not putting life jackets on kids, officials say

Posted at 10:55 AM, May 04, 2017

The Marine Patrol Unit with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office is now putting out a plea to local boaters to put life jackets on their children.

Deputies have told the public and county commissioners that they are seeing a startling number of parents not putting life jackets on their kids.

Even if your child is a strong swimmer, deputies say they still should be wearing a life jacket. In an emergency or man-overboard situation, it can mean the difference between life or death.

"By the time they hit the water, and you realize they've hit the water, it takes a long time to get your boat turned around to get back to them," aid Master Deputy Michael Wright with HCSO's Marine Patrol Unit.

It's the law to put a life jacket on any child younger than six while out on a moving boat, according to Florida law. Deputies say that's just common sense.

"Not to mention that there's that panic factor that a child's going to experience when they hit the water of 'Oh my God, I'm in the water!" Wright said.

Deputies also say it's critical children do not wear adult-sized life vests, but instead, child-size life vests. Adult size vests can actually end up holding a child's head under water, causing them to drown, deputies said.

They say around 600 people are involved every year in boating accidents in Hillsborough County.

They are also finding many people are leaving on boats without an anchor, which can lead to serious trouble out on the water.

Hillsborough County has now deemed May 20 through May 26 as Boating Safety Week.

Here is a VESSEL SAFETY LIST prepared by the U.S. Coast Guard.

They also encourage people to sign up for boating safety classes. Learn more here.