Whether you plan to hit the road or the waterways this Memorial Day weekend, local officials preach preparedness and best practices to ensure the safety of all travelers.
Held May 20-26, National Safe Boating Week kicks off the summer boating season – a popular pastime for droves of Florida residents and visitors.
Florida is considered the “Boat Capital of the World” and is the national leader with more than 1 million registered vessels in the Sunshine State.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, in 2022, 54% of all marine accidents involved collisions. Officials said the main causes of the accidents were “improper observation and experience of the operator”.
“Our state is known around the world as a premier boating destination for residents and visitors. Unfortunately, each year FWC officials respond to far too many tragic boating accidents that could have been prevented,” said Maj. Rob Beaton, Chief of FWC Boating and Waterways Division. “Hundreds of accidents involving nearly 2,000 people were reported last year.”
To reduce boating accidents, FWC encourages boaters to be vigilant, maintain 360-degree awareness at all times, and take a boater safety course. According to the FWC, as of 2022, 70% of operators involved in fatal boating accidents did not have formal boat operator training.
“We know that a trained boater is safer on the water,” Beaton continued. “Anyone can benefit from taking a boating safety course, it ensures a safer and more enjoyable experience for everyone onboard.”
Among the many different tips FWC provides, boaters are encouraged to find and wear a comfortable, US Coast Guard-approved life jacket at all times while on the water. You should also learn about the dangers of restricted boating. Alcohol and drugs can impair a boater’s judgement, reaction time and overall ability to safely operate a boat.
“Boating while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is dangerous and illegal,” Beaton said. “FWC officers are always on the lookout for impaired operators and those operators face arrest if they are found to be working under the influence of alcohol or drugs.”
For a summary of Florida regulations and available courses, go to: MyFWC.com/Boating.
To report dangerous boating activity, the public can provide anonymous tips by texting 847411 (Tip411) with the keyword “FWC” followed by the location and information about the violation, or by calling 888-404-FWCC (3922). There is also a downloadable iPhone or Android app: FWC Wildlife Alert.
hit the streets
AAA – The Auto Club Group expects Florida residents to record a record number of trips this Memorial Day weekend as it forecasts nearly 2.4 million will travel more than 50 miles across the state. That’s 172,000 more than last year and nearly 100,000 more than before the 2019 pandemic.
An estimated 2.1 million will drive (137,000 more than in 2022), while 208,000 are expected to fly (25,000 more than last year).
“Memorial Day weekend kicks off what is expected to be a very busy summer travel season,” said Debbie Haas, AAA’s vice president of travel. “Despite various inflationary pressures, consumer spending is high and Americans still want to travel. As a result, we have seen demand pick up again and beyond pre-pandemic levels in Florida.”
According to INRIX, a provider of transportation data and insights, Friday, May 26 will be the busiest day on the roads. The best time to travel by car is on the bank holiday weekend in the morning or evening after 6 p.m. The days with the least traffic are Saturday and Sunday. To avoid congestion, INRIX recommends traveling during off-peak hours or using alternative routes.
The Auto Club Group is offering the Tow to Go program for the 25th time. If necessary, Auto Club Group will dispatch a tow truck to transport the driver and vehicle to a safe location within a 10-mile radius free of charge. Since its inception, Tow to Go has taken more than 25,000 disabled drivers off the road. Tow to Go is active from Friday, May 26, 6 p.m. to Tuesday, May 30, 6 a.m.
Free confidential rides for AAA members and non-members.
“By providing this program, AAA gives drivers no excuse for driving under the influence of drugs, alcohol or constraining medications,” said AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins. “However, we are reminding people to consider Tow to Go as a last resort. Instead, make plans ahead of time for a safe trip home, because you don’t want to be remembered on Memorial Day as the person who made the fatal mistake of being disabled.”
Tow-to-go service is available by calling (855) 2-TOW-2-GO or (855) 286-9246.