MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Law enforcement officers are reminding us about the dangers of drinking while boating before the holiday weekend gets started.
This year has already been the most deadly on the lakes since 2005, with nine people losing their lives in boating accidents.
Officials with the Department of Natural Resources, the Minnesota State Patrol and several county sheriff’s offices announced the start of “Operation Dry Water” Thursday morning.
It is a national campaign to deter drinking and boating through stepped-up patrols on lakes like Lake Minnetonka — where the largest number of boating-while-intoxicated arrests are made in the state each year.
This is also where law enforcement officers chose to share a word of warning.
“In 2016, alcohol was a primary factor in over half of the boating fatalities on Minnesota waters,” said DNR Conservation Officer Adam Block. “Drunk boating is drunk driving.”
Officers want you to know that having a blood-alcohol content of .08 while operating a boat can get you arrested and land you in jail.
They demonstrated how they test boaters to see if they are impaired. They described some of the warning signs that someone has had too much to drink.
Sometimes they observe boaters violating a no-wake location or throwing items out of the boat.
“We’re stopping people for when it gets dark, they’re not having their navigation lights on, there’s people sitting on the boat in areas they shouldn’t be, there’s children that not wearing life jackets that are required to,” Block said.
WCCO talked with people taking advantage of a slow day on the lake.
“We don’t typically go out on the weekends, especially on holiday weekends,” said boater Rob Anonen. “It gets pretty, pretty busy … Pretty rowdy, pretty crazy, too many boats, too a little unpredictable.”
DNR officers say that besides getting ticketed and fined for boating while intoxicated, you can you can lose your boat-driving privileges.
“We would rather arrest you than tell your family or friends or the family or friends of an innocent victim that they’re no longer coming home,” Block said.
He says that not wearing a life jacket is the reason some boaters drown, but often times the reason they end up in the water is because they’re intoxicated.