June 29, 2011
Some cold beer, plenty of sun and a boat.For many people, that's the recipe for fun on the Fourth of July weekend. However, few things can sink a good time more quickly than an act of carelessness that causes an injury. It's something people need to keep in mind as they head onto the water in what is typically the biggest weekend of the year for boating.Alcohol is involved in about one of every three boating-related accidents on Ohio waterways, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), Division of Watercraft.Last weekend state watercraft officers and local marine patrols sought to emphasize that point when they launched Operation Dry Water. It was part of a national effort that focused greater awareness of the need for people to boat smart, boat sober and make a commitment to staying safe on the water.Ohio officers stopped more than 1,907 boaters and made eight arrests for boating while intoxicated. A total of 112 other alcohol and boating-related violations were issued in addition to 503 boating safety warnings. Fortunately, no boating-related fatalities were recorded during Operation Dry Water weekend in Ohio.The numbers, when compared to those of a year ago, show a problem that isn't close to going away. In 2010, state watercraft officers contacted 3,810 boaters and made 11 arrests for boating while intoxicated during the Operation Dry Water enforcement weekend. A total of 198 other alcohol and boating-related violations were issued in addition to 754 warnings.It's not just drunk boaters who are the cause of concern. Drug-impaired boating and drug-related arrests are more prevalent today on the nation's waterways, the ODNR officers noted.The fact that the crackdown was held the weekend before the Fourth of July is telling. Officers are delivering a message that safety will be emphasized this weekend. Their intention is not to keep people from having fun. Instead,they want to make sure the waterways remain safe. This is especially important in the Lima region where water quality issues at Grand Lake St. Marys will drive more people to an already crowded Indian Lake.As you make your weekend plans, remember that everyone wants to have a good time while boating. The lakes will be busy. Don't be the person who goes overboard when drinking alcohol and is wreckless on the water, putting others at risk.