Officials warn about the consequences of boating while drunk - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

Officials warn about the consequences of boating while drunk

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Empty bottles on the water, under a bridge Empty bottles on the water, under a bridge
ST. JOSEPH COUNTY -

If you plan to be on a boat this weekend, you should know that authorities will be out in force looking for drunk boaters. Last year, officers took 211 boaters off area waterways and charged them with being intoxicated. This year there have already been 42 arrests. With the July 4th holiday coming up, DNR Conservation Officers are taking part in a national initiative this weekend to remind people not to boat while under the influence.

It's called Operation Dry Water. It's a national effort this weekend to get the word out about the dangers of drunk boating. Indiana officers are actively involved.

"Alcohol, mixed with the motion of the water, actually increases your impaired-ness," said Conservation Officer Jonathon Boyd.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          He says, just like driving a car, the legal blood alcohol limit is .08. Recovering a dead child from the water is the toughest part of his job, he says, particularly when a death is alcohol related.

"That situational awareness, the ability to multitask and identify different dangers in the water go away with the more alcohol you drink so our accidents and incidents that do occur as a result of alcohol are usually pretty serious," Officer Boyd said.

I went with Boyd as he patrolled the St. Joe River and he showed me the empty bottles boaters collect under a bridge. Back on land, Mason Hough, who works for the city of Mishawaka, showed me all the beer bottles he's collected near the water at Margaret H. Prickett Marina Park. He says he finds them every week.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Officer Boyd says drinking and boating has become socially acceptable in some areas and that's why people can be frustrated when he pulls them over. but Hank Parakowski, who took his wife boating on the river today, says he understands.

"They're just out there doing their job and trying to help, you know, preventing an accident," Parakowski said.

Conservation Officer Boyd says field sobriety tests have to be different than those on the road because sometimes officers can't take a boater to dry land to test them.

"One of them would be like a finger count test where you're touching the tips of your fingers together and we ask the individuals to count out loud. And what we're looking for is fine motor skills and trying to divide their attention," Officer Boyd said.

 He also said whenever you're out on the water it's important to remember to wear a life jacket, respect driving rules, and, most importantly have a good time.

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