The Fourth of July holiday weekend marked the mid-point of summertime fun and sun, but the Ohio Department of Natural Resources says the problem of drinking and boating is a dangerous scenario that presents itself all summer long.
As on Ohio roadways, ODNR continues to reinforce the message that alcohol and boating don’t mix, reminding everyone that operating a watercraft under the influence is not only illegal, but extremely dangerous.
The state agency said that overall, alcohol is involved in nearly one in every four fatal boating-related accidents in the Buckeye State.
“Safe boating is the best boating,” said ODNR Director Mary Mertz. “Boating under the influence endangers everyone — you, your family and friends, and other boaters.”
Natural Resources Officers like Adam Somerville, whose charge includes Rocky Fork, Paint Creek and Adams Lake state parks, in addition to part of the Ohio River, have had to heighten their focus on removing impaired boaters from Ohio’s waterways.
“So the process is a little bit different, different forms and the process is a bit different,” he said. “We will still do the field sobriety test and either a urine test or a breath test. In a car, if you refuse the test, you lose your driver’s license. In a boat, you lose your boat operating privileges for one year.”
He emphasized that it is illegal to operate a boat with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher in Ohio, the same measurement standard that applies to drivers of motor vehicles.
Persons found to be boating under the influence can expect to incur severe penalties such as being arrested and having their boat impounded.
“If you are the registered owner of the boat, we strip the boats registration, and the boat cannot be registered for one year,” he said. “The charge of boating under the influence is a first degree misdemeanor, however, it does not affect your driver’s license.”
Alcohol can cause impairment to a boater’s judgement, vision, and reaction time, ODNR said, with alcohol also causing fatigue.
Common stressors such as sun, wind, vibration and motion can intensify the side effects of alcohol, drugs and some medications.
ODNR made no distinction between the person at the controls and passengers, pointing out that recreational drinking was dangerous for passengers as well, adding that intoxicated passengers could easily slip, fall overboard, or suffer other life-threatening injuries in addition to drowning.
According to 2019 boating statistics from the U.S. Coast Guard, alcohol use was the leading contributing factor in recreational boater deaths, and a leading factor in recreational boating accidents.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.