The Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Georgia State Patrol and TEAM Georgia, a safe and sober driving and boating coalition, are reminding people to refrain from drinking alcohol while driving vehicles and operating boats.
“Georgia DNR and Georgia State Patrol would like to emphasize responsibility and safety, especially during the increased traffic expected on holiday weekends,” says Lt. Col. Jeff Weaver, DNR assistant chief of Law Enforcement. “Alcohol, mixed with driving or boating activities, creates dangerous conditions that can lead not only to an arrest, but also to tragedy.”
On The Water
The marine environment, such as waves, engine noise, water, sun and wind, accelerates impairment and fatigue in recreational boaters. This can quickly become a hazardous situation when such fatigue is combined with the effects of alcohol. Last year, conservation rangers made 168 boating under the influence arrests on Georgia waterways, and alcohol was a factor in almost 17 percent of boating incidents.
“It is not illegal to have alcohol in an open container on a boat, nor is it illegal for a person operating a boat to drink, provided they are no less safe,” says Weaver. “However, if a person is over the age of 21 and has a blood alcohol content of .10 or higher, they are presumed to be less safe and may be charged with boating under the influence.”
People arrested for BUI may lose their privilege to operate a boat. These privileges are not reinstated until the successful completion of an approved Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drug Use Risk Reduction Program. The offender will be charged with a misdemeanor, punishable with up to a $1,000 fine and/or up to 12 months in prison.
“Operating a boat is as complicated as driving a car, and a boating incident is as dangerous as an automobile accident,” says Ron Fennel, chairman of TEAM Georgia. “However, many people who would never drive a car intoxicated think it is okay to operate their boat after drinking. Operating a boat while intoxicated is illegal and hazardous to themselves and others on the water.”
On the Road
Colonel Mark McDonough, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Safety, said Georgia State Troopers will again this year be patrolling for impaired drivers near the state's lakes. "Past experience has shown that warm weather and outdoor recreational activities can lead to an increase in the number of impaired drivers behind the wheel," he said. "The goal of our partnership with the Department of Natural Resources is to keep you safe whether you are on the roads or on the water."
To help emphasize safe driving and boating, TEAM Georgia will reward those who register as a designated sober operator with a chance to win prizes. To register online, visit www.teamgeorgia.net .
For more information, visit www.goboatgeorgia.com/boating/safety .