Boaters urged to make safety top priority during busy holiday

With the holiday weekend underway and thousands of people heading to the coast, first responders are urging boaters to make safety a top priority.

"The amount of boats that will be out there and the amount of people out on the waterways, along with the alcohol and the carelessness, it does make for a more busy time of year," said Capt. Aaron Gross with Hillsborough Fire Rescue.

According to state officials, nearly one million boats are registered in Florida, and during the Fourth of July weekend, they're expecting visitors to add to the boat traffic.

"We prepare for this every year. We've been out training almost every day," said Gross, who leads a water rescue crew that will be patrolling waterways around the Bay Area.

State officials reported July 2017 had more "reportable" water accidents and more fatal water accidents than any other month.

In an effort to prevent these dangerous situations, they are reminding boaters to take it easy and be responsible by obeying nautical laws, traveling at appropriate speeds, having the proper safety equipment, and having a designated, sober boat captain.

In Florida, it is illegal to operate a vessel under the influence of drugs or alcohol and can also lead to dangerous situations.

Officials said they want everyone who is heading out to the water to enjoy the experience, but always keep safety in mind.