PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG) -- The Fourth of July is just a couple days away, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission wants to make sure you're staying safe on the water this Independence Day and every other day of the year.
Operation Dry Water campaign is a three-day event dedicated to educating boaters on water safety and cracking down on boaters who don't follow the law. (WJHG/WECP)
Friday, July 5 through Sunday, July 7 is this year's nationwide Operation Dry Water campaign.
FWC is kicking off the three-day event by educating boaters about water safety in the days leading up to the Fourth of July.
"Although we make BUIs throughout the course of the year, this holiday, [and] in particular July, sees more boating accidents, fatalities, than any other month of the year throughout the course of Florida," Public Information Officer for the Northwest Region of FWC Officer Robert Ramos said.
FWC officers say boating under the influence is a major contributor in boat-related deaths.
"A lot of the times we'll start with just a random boating safety inspection and during the course of that inspection we're looking at the operator of that vessel and we're trying to detect signs of impairment," said Officer Ramos.
Just like having a designated driver on land is important, the same needs to be stressed for when you're on the water.
"Having that sober operator in advance, having somebody who's going to abstain from the use of alcohol, and that's always your best bet," said Officer Ramos, "Outside of that, you can call somebody, you can call a water taxi from the marina, they can come out here, or just wait it out."
Ultimately, a BUI is just as serious as a DUI, something many don't realize.
"If we arrest somebody for boating under the influence it's a second-degree misdemeanor, that's punishable by up to $500 and 60 days in jail for a first offense," said Officer Ramos.
FWC officers say the campaign's goal is to keep you safe and sober on the water.
"We want to save lives, we want everyone to come out and enjoy the Panhandle and everywhere that we have in Florida, but at the end of the day we want them folks to go back home safely to their families," said Officer Ramos.
FWC officers say you can have alcohol on the boat, the driver just can't be impaired.