OCSO: Patrolling to curb boat crashes, BUI numbers

Many people are hitting the water this Memorial Day, and millions of others are out on the water this summer. Local law enforcement is already on alert.
Published: May. 29, 2023 at 9:30 PM CDT
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OKALOOSA COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Millions of people are expected to be out in the water this summer, and local and state law enforcement officers are already hard at work ensuring everyone stays safe.

Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office Beach Marine Unit Sergeant Kyle Corbitt told NewsChannel 7 the area has more and more visitors each year, and deputies in the unit are on patrol every day of the week keeping their eyes out for safety concerns, and illegal activity.

“So far this year, we can definitely tell it’s probably going to be, again, our busiest year ever,” Sergeant Corbitt said. “Unfortunately, this county ends up being in the top 10 in vessel crashes. And that’s our biggest goal, as us as an agency, with [Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission] and also working with the Coast Guard, is to get us out of this top 10.”

OCSO officials said Okaloosa County is also one of the top counties in the state for the number of Boating Under the Influence cases. Sergeant Corbitt said to crack down on these numbers, it takes teamwork.

“We do only have five deputies here working but we bring coast guard into the mix, they have a full-time crew 24/7 here that can get on our boats, we can go out and help them. Same thing with FWC,” Corbitt said.

Sergeant Corbitt told NewsChannel 7 boat rental companies in the area have also been making efforts to thoroughly educate their clints before sending them off on the water.

He said it has resulted in more people following the rules, resulting in an average number of citations being given out in 2023 so far compared to prior years, despite more people being out on the water.

“We’re all about education people in the water because most of the people we deal with are tourists and they’re not aware of the laws of the water,” Corbitt said. “Just like whenever you first start driving a car and start driving down the road, learn the rules before you go out there.”

Sergeant Corbitt reported some of the most common violations they see while patrolling the water are:

  • Vessels going too fast in idle speed, no wake zones
  • People driving boats/jet skis under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Reckless operation of water vessels
  • Jet skiers and/or children not wearing proper life jackets, or not wearing a life jacket at all
  • People driving boats or jet skis without a license or the proper credentials

To check out the current water safety laws, click here.