Coast Guard to enforce slow speed zone in Biscayne Bay on Fourth of July

MIAMI — There will be a Regulated Navigation Area Tuesday in Biscayne Bay with an enforced 15-knot speed limit from 7 p.m. until 11:59 p.m.

The Fourth of July is traditionally a time of increased boating traffic in Biscayne Bay due to the myriad of fireworks displays. In past years, a combination of this increased traffic and vessels traveling at excessive speeds has resulted in deaths and serious injuries. In 2014, four people were killed in a vessel collision while traveling back to the boat ramp after watching fireworks. For this reason, the Coast Guard has established a RNA in Biscayne Bay on the Fourth of July. This RNA requires all vessels in the area to maintain a maximum speed of no greater than 15 knots during this time period. Nothing in this rule alters any existing slow speed or no wake areas, nor does it absolve the vessel operator from their responsibility to safely navigate their vessel.

The public is reminded to remain aware of their surroundings, watch the weather, and understand the hazards of boating under the influence of alcohol while on the water this weekend.

Weather conditions can change instantaneously, especially during the summer months. The National Weather Service broadcasts marine weather forecasts regularly. The forecast can be heard by tuning into channels one through five on VHF-FM marine radios or by checking the NWS website at http://www.nws.noaa.gov/.

Boaters are also reminded of the dangers of boating under the influence. In addition to decreasing the operator’s ability to make sound judgments, the consumption of alcohol also negatively affects the ability of passengers to respond in the case of an emergency on the water.

Intoxicated boaters can face both federal and state charges with penalties of up to one year in prison and up to $100,000 in fines.

The Coast Guard reminds boaters not to use emergency flares as celebratory fireworks. Flares should only be used in times of distress. Boaters are also reminded to always wear their life jackets, file a float plan with a friend or family member, and carry a working VHF-FM radio and Electronic Position Indicating Radio Beacon.

“We want everyone to have a great Fourth of July,” said Capt. Megan Dean, commander of Coast Guard Sector Miami. “But we also need boaters to do that safely. File a float plan, make sure you have all of your safety equipment, have a designated boater and wear your life jackets.”

More information on boating safety can be found at http://www.uscgboating.org/

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