July 3, 2008

Jacked Up: Marine Law Enforcement Hopes New Preserver Increases Usage

By Jon Miltimore, The News Herald, Panama City, Fla.

Jul. 3--PANAMA CITY -- The Bay County Marine Law Enforcement Alliance has a message for boaters this holiday weekend: Have fun, but be safe.

Capt. Ken Parramore with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, one of more than a halfdozen local agencies that make up the alliance, said the Fourth of July is one of the busiest water recreation days of the year.

"Memorial Day, Labor Day, the Fourth of July, these are some of the busiest boating weekends of the year. ... The waterways are much more congested," said Parramore, a 28-year veteran of the FWC.

Parramore said increased activity on the water means more accidents, and the alliance is determined to make Bay County residents aware of water safety.

This summer, it launched its "I Got Caught ... Wearing My Life Jacket" campaign, which rewards young people on the water wearing life jackets with a free Jr. Frosty from Wendy's.

Members of the alliance held a demonstration Wednesday to show off new Type V personal flotation devices, which they hope will be more appealing to boaters of all ages because they are smaller and lighter and can remain deflated until contact with water is made.

Parramore said these vests are safer, lighter and less cumbersome.

"It's quite a difference. To try to get the public to wear them, obviously it's easier to sell them on these lighter ones," Parramore said.

Florida requires children younger than 6 to wear life jackets, but adults and older children only must have the flotation device on board.

Parramore said many people will keep the appropriate number of flotation devices on a vessel to avoid a fine, which is $63, but keep the devices stowed away, where they likely will be useless during a crash.

"Nobody likes to wear life preservers, not even me," he said. "But people need something to make them float.

"It's easy to panic in the water, especially during an accident."


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Copyright (c) 2008, The News Herald, Panama City, Fla.

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