July 4th weekend, BUI and life jackets top concerns for deputies, Coast Guard

At Anclote Key, there are already more boaters out than usual for a Tuesday, ahead of the July 4th holiday.

"It's going to be extremely busy," said Capt. Russell Meissner of the Pasco County Sheriff's Office. "Both Pasco and Pinellas are going to be extremely busy, especially with Clearwater right down the street from us."

The Pasco County Sheriff's Office is expecting a busier week on the water because July 4th falls on Thursday this year, making for a long holiday weekend. 

"The Pasco County Sheriff's Office, Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, FWC and the Coast Guard are all going to be in this area," said Meissner. "We're going to have guys watching the boat ramps looking for BUIs. That's specifically what we're going to target, all the way from Thursday all the way to Sunday." 

Pasco County authorities will work extended hours, to ensure the waterways are safe for everyone to enjoy this holiday. While finding boaters operating vessels while under the influence is their main priority, they're also reminding boaters to have a plan even before they get out on to the water.  

"Before you guys even leave the dock or the boat ramps, we want to make sure you guys know where your life jackets are, they're out of the bags, that you guys probably bought them at the store, the flares are in date," said Meissner. "Leave some type of float plan with whoever is at the house, your friend, family, mother, father, whatever. When you guys go out on the boat, make sure you watch the news. If the weatherman says it's going to be a real nasty storms in the afternoon, heed that warning." 

Children under the age of six are required by law to wear life jackets while on the open water. Authorities will also be checking to make sure boat registrations are up-to-date. 

"Overall, we're not out there trying to ruin anybody's day. The biggest thing is we want to keep the kids safe," said Meissner. 

For a checklist of items you should have secured on your boat before heading out on the water this holiday weekend, visit https://myfwc.com/boating/safety-education/equipment/.