The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office is reminding residents and visitors to obey all laws while on the waterways and roadways of Pinellas County this Labor Day weekend.
Deputies will maintain a high profile to help ensure a safe holiday for all.
Because safety is priority for all of us, here are some boating tips for those heading out on the water.
CHECK THE WEATHER: Make certain to check the local weather prior to departing the dock. Weather can change rapidly, so mariners planning on making way should keep a watchful eye on the forecast conditions.
LIFE JACKETS: Make sure you have personal floatation devices (PFDs) for all aboard and make sure children wear a USCG-approved properly fitting life jacket at all times. According to the Coast Guard, more than 90 percent of boaters who drown were not wearing their life jackets. Also, don't allow friends and family members to carelessly bow-ride. Bow-riding refers to the unsafe practice of passengers remaining on the bow of a recreational vessel while it is making way.
ALCOHOL AND BOATING DON'T MIX: Consuming alcoholic beverages in excess will affect perception, reaction and decision-making. According to the 2012 recreational boating statistics, alcohol use was a contributing factor in 30 accidents, resulting in nine deaths and 30 injuries statewide. So don't drink and boat!
PROPER SAFETY/RESCUE EQUIPMENT: Check batteries, on-board electronics (radios), and navigation lights. A VHF-FM radio is the best method of communication while on the water. Although cell phones are a good backup, they can be unreliable due to gaps in coverage area and the inevitable dead battery. To avoid breakdowns, that often lead to tragedy in the water, obtain a free, no-fault vessel safety check, which can be conducted by the Coast Guard Auxiliary, before heading out on the water. The safety checks are courtesy examinations of your vessel, verifying the presence and condition of certain safety equipment required by state and federal regulations.
FILE A FLOAT PLAN: Let family or friends know about your boating plans and stay in touch with someone on shore.
PERMITS AND LICENSING: Make sure you have up-to-date fishing permits and marine decals for your vessel. Know size requirements and what fish are in season.
WATCH THE SIGNS: Know how to read the red and green channel markers, and watch for slow and no wake signs. These apply to all vessels.
FLOAT ALONG: The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office is inviting everyone to participate this Sunday during a social media "Float Along" on Twitter and Facebook. Officials will be patrolling the waterways with the Marine Unit, live "tweeting" and sharing photos on Facebook.
The "Float Along" will begin at noon on Sunday, August 31, 2013.
By following these tips, you can ensure your most precious cargo, your friends and family, are safe on the water!