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Health News Florida

Lawmakers Pitch Ideas To Increase Boating Safety After Summer Tragedy

Florida is a boating state, with its miles of beaches, rivers, and local fishing spots. Tragedies appear to be on the rise and state lawmakers are looking for ways to make boating safer.

Austin Stephanos grew up on the water. His father says it was the love of his life. But three months ago, while boating off the coast of Jupiter, Austin and another 14-year-old friend vanished at sea, after getting caught in a sudden storm. Now Austin’s father Blue Stephanos is joining two Central Florida lawmakers in a push to encourage boaters to use emergency beacon devices.

“Your cell phone won’t work out there, your VHF won’t work out there. The only thing that will work is one of these devices, and for that…can you price on it, really?” He said.

A bill by Republicans Sen. Joe Negron and Rep. Mary Lynn Magar would give boaters a 25 percent discount on annual registration fees if they purchase the locator devices. The machines emit an signal when submerged. The beacon is routed to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration which notifies local responders. NOAA reports 104 people have been rescued due to the beacons so far dour of those rescues occurred off Florida’s coast.

Negron says while he wants to increase boating safety, he believes it's ultimately left to individuals, and he's not supporting a bill to increasing the boating age from 14, to 16 as proposed in a bill by Democratic Senator Jeremy Ring.

“My personal view is that parents should make the decision on when a teenager or child is able to operate a vessel," Negron said.

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