The Ohio Department of Natural Resources is working to crack down on drunken boating and to increase boater safety in time for the Fourth of July holiday.
The effort is called “Operation Dry Run.”
“Statistically, one in three boating accidents … alcohol is involved at some point,” said Don Siler, a Division of Watercraft officer for the ODNR.
The rules for drinking are the same on the water as they are on the road. If a boater is 21 or older, there is a .08 limit.
“If we come across it, we’re going to deal with it,” said Siler, who patrols C.J. Brown Reservoir at Buck Creek State Park.
If someone is suspected of being intoxicated, officials will show zero tolerance. The person will be taken to shore for a sobriety test, and if a person tests over the limit, they face fines and jail time.
According to Siler, drunk boating is a first-degree misdemeanor and a $1,000 fine, but depends on the court.
“You shouldn’t be drinking and operating any kind of vehicle in the water,” said Tammy Lewis of Fairborn while at Buck Creek State Park.
In state parks, no alcohol is permitted in the boats.
There are certain environmental stressors in the water that make drinking dangerous for boaters, including wind, weather, heat and waves.
“One beer in the water is considered almost three on land,” said Siler.
“What goes through my mind is someone who can get hurt,” said Lewis. “They can wreck into someone else or they drown.”
According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 89 percent of those who drown in Army Corps lakes and rivers may have survived if a life jacket would have been worn.
“Children that are less than 10 years old on a boat that is less than 18 feet always have to wear a life jacket,” said Siler.
Swimming in pools and open water is different. In open water, a person can tire quickly. Waves, currents and lack of experience can cause trouble.
“Usually people believe that if someone is drowning, they will yell for help and that is not the case at all,” said national water safety program manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Pam Doty. “Several people drown every year within 10 feet of safety because the people around them did not recognize the signs of drowning.”
According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the fours signs of drowning can resemble someone playing in the water. These signs include the victim’s head back and gasping for air, arms slapping in the water and no yelling or sound.
To rescue a drowning person, it is important not to make contact with them, but to reach out to them or throw them something that floats and that they can hold.
Boaters and swimmers should be aware of carbon monoxide from boats. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include, dizziness, weakness nausea and headaches. It is suggested to install carbon monoxide detectors on and around boats and to keep fresh air circulating on the boat at all times.
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