Local News

Sheriff’s office emphasizes boating safety

— The Memorial Day weekend is traditionally the beginning of the summer season and with that comes increased traffic on lakes in Highlands County.

To emphasize the importance of safe boating, Highlands County Sheriff’s Captain Jeff Barfield has activated a marine patrol detail for duty this holiday weekend.

Highlands County Sheriff’s Office has specially trained deputies in water-related matters for search and rescue, enforcement and safety. They will conduct water safety patrols on various waterways in Highlands County throughout Memorial Day weekend.

“We will be on the lookout for impaired boaters or those people who may be operating their watercraft in an unsafe manner,” said Barfield. “We also will be checking safety equipment on board such as life jackets, and using this opportunity to educate members of the public that we come in contact with.”

It is important that people who are operating watercraft of any kind, from jet skis to high powered boats, are not under the influence of alcohol or drugs. “Impaired boaters are dangerous boaters and we will be enforcing the law regarding this as we patrol,” added Barfield.

Sheriff Susan Benton sees how important our lakes and waterways are to recreation and the economy of our county. Although the sheriff’s office cannot fund a full-time marine unit, it works in close connection with the Florida Wildlife Commission to provide extra support to their presence in Highlands County on busy holidays.

“We consider safety on our lakes as an integral part of the overall safety of our community thus we will be working our lakes as well as our roads and communities throughout the holiday weekend,” Benton said.

For information on boating safety or to schedule a program on this topic, call Highlands County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Nell Hays at 402-7369.