USCG: Play it safe on the water during the Fourth of July holiday

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As thousands of boaters are expected throughout Tampa Bay this holiday, the U.S. Coast Guard is stressing the importance of practicing safety on the waterways. 

Officers said one of the most important safety practices that are often ignored is to make sure you have the required number of portable floatation devices, or life vests, on board. There should be one for each passenger. 

On Fourth of July, and for most holidays, the waterways are expected to be packed with thousands of other boaters, so the Coast Guard wants boaters to watch their speed and remain attentive to other boats. Boaters should also be mindful of clearing a path for larger vessels. 

A free vessel safety check is also recommended to make sure all the safety equipment is in working order. Officials said if people decide to watch fireworks from a boat to make sure not to become too distracted and end up drifting into a dangerous area.

Also, the Coast Guard says people may be surprised at how many boaters discharge their flares like fireworks. They want to remind boaters that is only for emergencies. It could lead to a felony charge and a fine of a quarter million dollars.