DESTIN, Fla. (WMBB) — The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office patrols local waterways 24/7. Over the Memorial Day weekend, more than 40,000 vessels took to the water to remember the fallen.
OCSO said over the four-day period, FWC worked two minor crashes, drastically down from 2022 numbers.
According to FWC, Okaloosa County was among the top 10 in the state for boating accidents.
BUI arrests are also down from 38 in 2022 to 15 in 2023. OCSO said the decrease is from a new push from rental companies about educating the visitors.
“A lot of the rental companies, they’re educating their customers a lot better this year. So we’re not seeing as many violations out there in the water,” said Sgt. Kyle Corbitt with Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office. “We’ve been working with Okaloosa County Water Sports Coalition, and that was our biggest goal is to have them educate their customers a little bit better. They’re working well with us and I think we definitely have been seeing that here lately. The customers are actually following the rules of the water out there.”
The rental pontoon companies for 2023 have started a wristband system to alert law enforcement and employees of high-risk operators.
“An operator gets a certain color and that helps them determine that this person is driving the boat and they’re not drinking,” said Sgt. Corbitt. “They have spotters out there for the rental company so if they see the person that’s wearing that certain color and sees them drinking, they can actually in their contract go out there and get the boat and bring it back to the dock and cancel the trip because they violated the contract.”
Moving into the full summer season, OCSO said they are prepared for a busy year on the water.
“Once Memorial Weekend kicks off and we go through that we see a big increase in boating every single day. Of course, we got some events that have been planned on social media, for some Crab Island events that we’re keeping a close eye on, working together again with FWC and Coast Guard to make sure we don’t have any major incidents or anything,” said Sgt. Corbitt.