Boating Safety Tips 

You can never be too prepared when you take a journey out onto the water. In Pinellas County, boating is one of the top and most frequent activities in the spring and summer months. However, according to the U.S. Coast Guard, thousands of boating accidents happen every year throughout the country. The most recent report from 2017 shows that there were 4,291 recreational boating accidents in the United States resulting in 658 deaths, 2,629 injuries, and $46 million in property damages.

Out of the victims who drowned, 84.5 percent were not wearing a life jacket, and alcohol use was the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents. This means that preventing death and injury when taking your boat out is as simple as wearing a life jacket and not operating your vessel under the influence.

Aside from these two very important safety rules, we do advise Pinellas County citizens to also follow the following tips during boating season.

  1. 1. Complete a safe boating course: Florida law requires boat operators born after January 1, 1988 complete an approved boater education course and receive a Florida Boating Safety Education ID Card. Enrolling in a boaters’ safety course is also a great way to learn the rules of the water and familiarize yourself with basic boating principles. Visit the National Safe Boating Council website at for links to several approved online courses.
  2. 2. Make a pre-departure checklist: Before you set sail, use a pre-departure checklist to make sure you have all the necessary equipment on board, including: life jackets, sound producing devices, distress signals, fuel and oil, fire extinguishers, a radio, anchor and dock line, basic toolbox, first-aid kit, and flashlights. Florida law requires that one personal flotation device (PFD) per passenger is readily accessible on the vessel at all times, and that children under age six must wear PFDs while underway.
  3. 3. Watch for manatees: The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission provides a Pinellas County manatee protection zone map. Reduce your boating speed in the required areas from April 1st to November 15th. The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office Marine Unit regularly monitors and enforces these zones. The rules and restrictions can change, so it is important to stay informed.
  4. 4. Get a free vessel safety check: The U.S. Coast Guard offers complimentary boat examinations to ensure you have the proper safety equipment required by state and federal regulations.   
  5. 5. Make a float plan: Inform your close friends and family members about the details of your trip, including the name and address of the trip leader, boat type and registration, the names of all the passengers, and the trip itinerary. Also, make sure more than one person on board is familiar with the boat’s operations and general boating safety in case the primary navigator is injured or incapacitated in any way.
  6. 6. Don’t drink and boat: Remember, operating any vehicle—including a boat—while impaired by drugs or alcohol is illegal and can result in lives lost and thousands of dollars in fines. Just as you would before a night out on the town, designate a sober captain before you head out on the water.
Posted by Monday, April 1, 2019 10:39:00 AM

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