Impaired driving is a crime — even in a boat

Published: Tuesday, July 1 2014 5:37 p.m. MDT

Updated: Tuesday, July 1 2014 5:37 p.m. MDT

Law enforcement across the state is teaming up to keep Utah's lakes and reservoirs safe and free from drunken driving. They are reminding boaters and recreation enthusiasts that no matter what vehicle they are operating, if they are drunk they will be arrested.

Steve Landeen, Deseret News

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PROVO — With a big three-day holiday weekend approaching, law enforcement across the state reminds everyone to stay sober whether driving a car or a boat.

“A lot of people think to themselves, 'Well, I'm on a boat, so it's no big deal.’ It is a big deal,” Utah Highway Patrol trooper Lawrence Hopper said. “You could get arrested for a DUI on a boat just as you can when you're in a vehicle."

Boaters and recreation enthusiasts are seeing a new message wrapped across boat docks at select state parks, messages reminding them of the tragic consequences of drunken driving.

Ranger Brody Young will patrol the water this Independence Day weekend. He and other rangers will make sure boat operators at the state’s lakes and reservoirs have the right equipment and know the rules of the water.

One of the rules is adults can drink alcohol on the boat, but the operator cannot and cannot have alcohol within reach.

"If we can detect the odor of alcohol or an open container, we will test the operator,” Brody said.

The 0.08 blood-alcohol content standard is the same as for people behind the wheel of a car.

"No matter what you're driving, be it a vehicle or a boat, if you're under the influence, you will be arrested,” Hopper said.

Marc and Linda Edminster have been boating with their family for 15 years. They hope boaters they encounter understand those rules.

"That does concern me,” Linda Edminster said. “As a mom, I'm always worried about my kids, whether they're on the road, or in a boat or the water."

Marc Edminster said he's concerned about the wave runners that get too close to his boat, and he's worried about other boaters who drink when they're on the water.

"I think you can have plenty of fun without it," he said. "Enjoy it responsibly ashore."

In a typical summer, state park rangers bust anywhere from 20 to 40 boaters operating under the influence of alcohol. When boaters are done on the water, they need to make sure they drive home sober as well.

During the summer months of 2013, law enforcement officers across Utah made 3,963 arrests for driving under the influence.

“Over the past 10 years, the Fourth of July is one of the deadliest summer holidays for drunk driving,” said Sgt. Ted Tingey with the Utah Highway Safety Office. “Whenever you plan on consuming alcohol, avoid operating a motorized vehicle, no matter the type. Be responsible, as your decisions can both impact yourself and innocent people around you.”

Law enforcement officials say if someone is going to drink, they need to have a designated driver or call a cab.

“Whether you are driving along city streets or navigating across the lake, if you are operating your vehicle under the influence of alcohol, you put everyone around you in danger,” Utah Highway Patrol Col. Danny Fuhr said.

Anyone who suspects a person is driving or boating under the influence is asked to call 911.

Email: jboal@deseretnews.com

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