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FWC warns Tampa Bay area boaters to follow the laws

Posted at 6:04 PM, Jul 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-04 18:04:06-04

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- The Florida Fish and Wildlife (FWC) will be working to keep waterways safe this weekend.

During the national Operation Dry Water campaign, officers will focus on removing impaired operators from the water and educating boaters about safety.

ABC Action News was out on the water with officers in Winter Haven. In just a three-hour period, FWC did multiple safety checks, but didn’t spot any drunk drivers.

The FWC can and will pull you over for random safety checks so it’s important to be prepared. All boaters must have enough life jackets for everyone on board, have a horn or whistle, a fire extinguisher, lighting and -- of course -- registration.

According to FWC, there are over 950,000 boats registered in the state and an estimated 1 million additional non-registered boats enjoying Florida’s waters.

Boaters should know that operating a vessel under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal and can lead to serious injuries and consequences. In Florida, it is illegal to operate a vessel with a blood alcohol content level of .08 or higher – the same as it is to operate a vehicle.

In 2018, FWC reported 38 boating under the influence arrests or BUIs and tells ABC Action News the number one reason for fatalities on the water is due to drugs or alcohol.

“As law enforcement, it is our job to do all we can to ensure the safety of our recreational boaters and paddlers,” said Maj. Robert Rowe, FWC’s Boating and Waterways Section Leader. “The accidents and tragedies that happen because individuals choose to drive impaired, on land or on the water, are preventable. We’re joining other agencies across the country to keep boaters safe and prevent accidents related to BUI.”

FWC officers will be out in full force for the holiday weekend, working extra shifts and looking for anyone breaking the law.