June 13, 2014, has marked one safe step forward for divers in the state of Florida. Today, Governor Rick Scott has signed HB 1049 into law in Florida, setting a precedent that hopefully other states will eagerly follow.
Now, divers have two choices to mark where they descend to enjoy a dive site. Divers will have the ability to use the traditional divers-down flag or a divers-down buoy.
Backing the law and always considering a diver's safety, DEMA, the Diving Equipment & Marketing Association, endorses this decision and hopes that other states will follow suit. Not only will this make for safer diving, but also better visibility and a clear warning for approaching boats.
The flag will still be required when diving off of a boat, however, if you and your buddy plan on doing a totally independent dive, you can use a buoy in place of the flag. The buoy will need to be a specific size and this buoy will be allowed to be used when diving independently from a boat. According to the new law, "divers-down buoy" means a buoyant device, other than a vessel, which displays a divers-down symbol of at least 12 inches by 12 inches on three or four flat sides, which is prominently visible on the water's surface when in use.
As divers must stay within 100 feet of the flag, so must boats be extremely careful to also stay within 100 feet distance from the divers. In addition, slowing down with a greater awareness creates a more rewarding dive for all those involved.
Any violation of the law results in a noncriminal infraction punishable by a civil penalties and a requirement that the person appears before the county court. The bill also requires boater education and safety courses to include a component regarding divers-down buoys and diver-down flags.
In partnership with the Safe Boating Association, DEMA has issued a Public Service Announcement regarding diver-down flags, and has made this public service announcement available to television stations in many different states including Florida.
The new law goes into effect on July 1, 2014. For more information, see the bill here.
This new law will only entice expert divers to come visit the warm and inviting waters off the long coast of Florida and rest assured knowing that safety is the #1 concern of all.