Reporting Rachel Slavik
LAKE MINNETONKA, Minn. (WCCO) – This holiday weekend, lakes and rivers around the state will be packed with boaters who are finally getting the chance to enjoy summer.
But, a day off for most Minnesotans means a busy day for the Department of Natural Resources patrolling the water for those who are drinking and boating.
Adam Block and other law enforcement officers will be on the water looking for safety violations.
“The bulk majority of our stops that lead to BUI arrests, are for boat operators operating with people hanging outside of the boat,” he said. “That is the No. 1 violation that leads to BUI arrest.”
Routine stops are, often times, the only indication of a potential drunk boater.
“It is harder to pick up the impaired drivers,” Block said. “We don’t have traffic lanes. We don’t have traffic lights, turn signals or gauges that are signs of possible intoxication.”
Adding to the challenge, drinking and boating is legal as long as the driver is under .08 blood alcohol level.
On one stop, the boaters were openly drinking, but none were breaking the law.
“We do know there is a percentage of folks that are going to be impaired today,” Block said.
Last year, of the 158 drunk boating violations, 22 percent happened over the July 4 week.
“When you take into account the sun, the wind, the noise of the boat, a day-long activity that wasn’t intended to turn into day long, that’s when folks find themselves in trouble on the water,” Block said.
Law enforcement is expecting arrests this holiday weekend, a necessary step to keep boaters safe on the water.
“Boating and drinking is a threat on the water. It’s something we take very seriously,” Block said.
None of the boaters stopped when WCCO tagged along with the DNR were arrested for BUI.
If you do receive a BUI, you won’t lose your driving privileges on the road, as long as it’s your first drunk driving citation, both on the road and water.
However, you can just lose your boating privileges.
If you’re stopped for BUI and you’ve been arrested for DWI in the past, you will lose your driver’s license.
Law enforcement officials are also checking for life jackets. Boaters are required to have a life preserver for every person in the boat as well as a throwable life cushion. The ticket is $130.