Coast Guard warns boaters

Coast Guard officials Thursday urged boaters to make safety a priority this holiday weekend, when thousands of revelers are expected to celebrate the Fourth of July on or near the water.

Boaters should never operate a vessel while intoxicated, said USCG Petty Officer 2nd Class Jetta Disco.

“Along with decreasing the operator’s ability to make good judgement, boating under the influence negatively affects the ability of the operator to respond in the case of an emergency,’' Disco said. ‘The effects of sun, wind, waves and a boat’s motion on the water can all add to an operator’s impairment.’'

Boaters caught intoxicated can face federal and state charges with penalties of up to one year in jail and up to $100,000 in fines.

The Coast Guard also noted that everyone on a boat, including small children and even pets, should wear properly sized life jackets.

Boaters should also check the weather forecast, tell a friend or family member on shore where they’re going, and have a working radio and radio beacon on board.

“Doing these simple tasks could save your life or the life of your passengers,’' Disco said.

The Coast Guard also urged revelers not to fire off flares for anything other than an emergency because it can result in a delayed response to a legitimate emergency. It can also spell legal troubles.

Firing a flare when not experiencing an emergency is a felony, punishable by six years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines and reimbursement of all costs that the Coast Guard incurs as a result of the false distress signal.