BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The Fourth of July holiday is a hectic time for DMR Marine Patrol Officers.
"There's a lot of traffic on the water already. We're seeing a lot of boaters," said Marine Patrol Officer Patrick Levine. "A lot of times, inexperienced boaters come out for days like holidays such as the 4th of July."
Too many boaters celebrating on the water can lead to trouble.
"It can be really dangerous, especially on holidays and on big weekends," Levine said. "The reason is two-thirds of all boating accidents involve alcohol and a lot of times people get out here, they get away from the house, the thing they like to do is open up a cold beer, go ride around."
So officers conduct random boat safety checks to remind boaters about emergency equipment they should have on board.
"Be sure to get you a fire extinguisher," Levine told one boat owner.
They also try to prevent potential tragedies on the water.
"The reason we're stopping you today, because they're not allowed to ride up there," Levine told one man who had three girls riding on the bow of the boat.
"One of the most important things is life jackets," Levine said. "Every person on board has to have one wearable life jacket that will fit them."
Officers don't just ticket violators. They also hand out coupons to reward kids who obey the rules.
"McDonald's provided us with some free ice cream cones for all the kids that are out there wearing a life jacket," Levine said.
Their job is to make sure every family makes it home from their July 4th festivities safe and sound.
"We're out here to protect and serve and make sure everybody's safe," he said.
Before you go out on a boat, remember that the number one cause of death on the water is drowning.
Here are some safety tips from the DMR:
- Wear your life jacket, especially children.
- Know your boat and its capabilities and make sure it's equipped.
- Get updated weather conditions.
- Leave a float plan with a friend or relative with detailed information about your boat and its passengers.
- And have some form of reliable communication device.
For more safety tips or to enroll in a free boat and water safety course, you can contact the DMR at (228) 523-4134.