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Boat safety stressed ahead of Memorial Day weekend

Published: May. 25, 2022 at 6:16 PM EDT
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It’s national boater safety week, with the goal of stressing boat safety ahead of the busy Memorial Day weekend.

With more people moving to South Florida than ever before there is also a big increase in first-time boat owners, like Jennifer Bellis of Delray Beach.

"I love to be on the water. I love the breeze, and I love seeing what's in the water,” said Bellis. "It's just part of the lifestyle here."

In 2021, there were 1.01 million recreational boats in the sunshine state. Three years earlier, there were 950,000. A flip side to all of those new boats is they are traveling about in the same amount of space. With the forecast heating up and Memorial Day on Monday, people will likely be spending the weekend on their boats.

Michael Pike, who is a personal injury attorney and avid boater, said it’s important to learn the ropes on how to properly operate a boat plus pay attention to all the markers in the water.

"If you see this boat safety zone, it says slow speed minimum wake. That slow speed minimum wakes through the Lantana bridge until you see the next sign that says resume normal operation 300 feet from shore,” said Pike. “The purpose of these signs, you see this Marina over here, there's boat dock right over there. You can't go barreling through here, creating a big wake and throwing these boats up against the wall and shattering the fiberglass. You will get a ticket; you will get pulled over this weekend."

The latest numbers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission show 751 boating accidents occured in 2021. A total of 60 people lost their lives last year in boating accidents and 22% of the fatalities resulted from falls overboard and drowning.

"When leaving the inlet, if it looks like it's too rough or you're not experienced enough, turn around early,” said Michael Sember, South Florida Firefighter & Paramedic. “Number three, pay attention to local laws and regulations and always have safety equipment on your boat."

Bellis said she always remains vigilant while on the water.

"There are people who aren't careful, so you always have to pay attention and be sort of a defensive boater,” said Bellis.

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