APPLING, Georgia (WJBF) – Temperatures are rising, the kids are out of school in the summer and the boating season is just beginning.
However, law enforcement wants to stress the importance of safety and remind you of the dangers of drinking on the water.
“Driving while under the influence of alcohol is very dangerous, but being on a boat, especially on the water, is very different than being in a car,” said Cory Bohannon, a wildlife warden with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
Bohannon said they saw more new boat owners this summer, which may be linked to the number of drunk boaters arrested.
Five BUIs have been awarded at Clarks Hill Lake so far this summer. By the end of last summer they had only issued 11.
“Twelve thousand new boats were registered in the state of Georgia in the last nine years, so people are buying boats that have never been on the water or have very little boating experience,” Bohannon said. “So a lack of experience and a lack of knowledge about what to do could also be a factor.”
In Georgia, anyone born after January 1, 1998 must attend a boat operator’s training course before being allowed to operate a boat.
Anyone born before that only needs to have an identity card.
“You can definitely tell the difference between the people who have had it and the people who haven’t had it,” Bohannon said. “The most important thing is what to look out for. If they notice something is wrong, they know immediately that something is wrong, and then they can put some distance, slow down and get out of their way.”
Some telltale signs that a person is driving while intoxicated are when they are speeding through a quiet zone and driving near other boats.
And just like driving a car, a blood alcohol level above 0.08 can result in a prison sentence, and game wardens want you to do everything you can to prevent it.
“The last thing anyone wants to do is lose a friend or hurt someone else or themselves,” Bohannon said. “Always have a backup plan. Bring a friend or family member so you can be out on the water while drinking. But have a backup plan and just call someone not to put yourself in that position.”
If you come across a boat being run out of control, the DNR recommends slowing down, getting out of the way and calling the boat to take care of it.