Boat safely over the Independence Day holiday

Published 6:43 pm Thursday, June 27, 2019


The Advocate-Messenger

With summer here and a holiday on the horizon, many people will be hitting Kentucky’s many beautiful waterways to beat the heat.

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With that influx of activity on the water comes fun, but also concerns.

In an effort to educate the public about the dangers of boating under the influence, conservation officers with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources are joining other law enforcement agencies for Operation Dry Water, a national campaign promoting boater safety July 5-7.

A new law which went into effect Thursday gives conservation officers authority to crack down on boating under the influence in Kentucky. The new law allows officers to make a boating-under-the-influence arrest based on probable cause of operator intoxication, when an accident has caused property damage or physical injury.

It is illegal to drink and operate a boat in all 50 states. Those arrested for BUI can serve up to 24 hours in jail for the first offense and 48 for the second.

We often hear warnings about driving under the influence, but boating while intoxicated happens regularly and can be potentially more dangerous.

According to the US Coast Guard, alcohol is even more hazardous on the water than on land.

“The marine environment motion, vibration, engine noise, sun, wind and spray accelerates a drinker’s impairment,” the USCG reports. “These stressors cause fatigue that makes a boat operator’s coordination, judgment and reaction time decline even faster when using alcohol.”

Alcohol is involved in about a third of all recreational boating fatalities.

Many people forget that operating a boat is as serious as operating a car or any other vehicle.

Alcohol can turn a great day on the water into a tragedy if proper care and precautions aren’t taken.

The USCG offers these tips for safe and sober boating:

• Take along a variety of cool drinks, such as sodas, water, iced tea, lemonade or non-alcoholic beer.

• Bring plenty of food and snacks.

• Wear clothes that will help keep you and your passengers cool.

• Plan to limit your trip to a reasonable time to avoid fatigue. It’s common to become tired more quickly on the water.

• If you want to make alcohol part of your day’s entertainment, plan to have a party ashore at the dock, in a picnic area, at a boating club, or in your backyard. Choose a location where you’ll have time between the fun and getting back into your car or boat.

• If you dock somewhere for lunch or dinner and drink alcohol with your meal, wait a reasonable time (estimated at a minimum of an hour per drink) before operating your boat.

• Having no alcohol while aboard is the safest way to enjoy the water; intoxicated passengers are also at risk of injury and falling overboard.