RALEIGH, N.C. (May 19, 2011) – The Wildlife Resources Commission and the State Highway Patrol are teaming up for a safer North Carolina this summer, with a reminder that whether you are on the road or on the water, drinking and driving can be deadly. North Carolina sets the same limits for intoxication while operating a boat as it does for operating a motor vehicle, at .08 blood alcohol concentration. The state sees on average one-in-three alcohol related traffic deaths and recreational boating deaths every year. A new “On the Road or On the Water” campaign combines the efforts of “Booze It & Lose It” for highways and “Boat Safe, Boat Sober” for waterways. Officers will concentrate on impaired drivers – no matter what they drive – through awareness and enforcement in all North Carolina counties. Joining the campaign are the Alcohol Law Enforcement division, local police and sheriff’s departments and Forensic Tests for Alcohol branch, which is providing six mobile breath-alcohol testing units. Each mobile unit is equipped with alcohol screening devices, computers and communication work stations, as well as a magistrate office and other necessary equipment and supplies for processing impaired suspects. The ALE division will stress that the “On the Road, On the Water” message can serve as a deterrent to under-age drinking. It is illegal to sell alcohol without a permit, to sell to anyone younger than 21, to have an open container of alcohol in a car, or to sell wine, beer or liquor to anyone who is intoxicated. ALE special agents enforce these and many other laws involving the sale, purchase, transportation, manufacture, consumption, and possession of alcoholic beverages in the state. The state chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving also will help promote and support the campaign through communication and education. Drinking and boating has an additional consideration. Wind and waves, combined with heat, glare, motor noise and vibrations can create a condition known as boater fatigue, which accelerates impairment and affects coordination, judgment and reaction time that can magnify the effects of alcohol in some individuals. North Carolina allows a boat operator to be charged if appreciably impaired. For more information on boating safety, regulations and title and registration, go to http://www.ncwildlife.org/Boating_Waterways/index.htm.
For many North Carolinian’s Memorial Day marks the official start of the recreational boating season. That is more than likely why on May 16, 2011, Governor Bev Perdue issued a proclamation that the week of May 21 – 27 be recognized as Safe Boating Week in North Carolina. It is always important to be safe on the water, to watch out of others and to be extra cautious. NC Wildlife Officers are charged with enforcing boating regulations and laws. Any boat can be stopped at any time for a safety check or for violations. Make sure before you take your boat out, especially at the start of the season, that you have everything needed to provide safety for all passengers on board and to stay in compliance with NC Wildlife boating regulations. Take time to inspect your fire extinguisher to ensure it has not expired and is in working order and be careful to examine the condition of your personal flotation devices. It is important to know that a multi-agency campaign by the NC Wildlife Resource Commission, NC Highway Patrol and ALE will be in effect this holiday week, “On the Road, On the Water, Don’t Drink and Drive“. There will be check points set up and paroling will be vigilant. Some things to be aware of while your celebrating the unofficial start of summer and through out the season are:
- Any person under the age of 26 must have completed successfully an NASBLA approved boating safety education course before operating any vessel propelled by a motor of 10hp or greater. G.S. 75A-16.2. They must also have their Boater Education Certificate present when operating a vessel.
- Children younger than 13 must wear an appropriate sized PFD (personal flotation device) when on a recreational vehicle that is underway
- Any person riding a PWC (Personal Water Craft) or being towed by a water craft must also wear an appropriate life vest
- A type I or II PFD, in good condition and of appropriate size, must be present for each person on board a recreational vehicle (including kayaks, canoes, rowboats and non-motorized crafts).
- The legal alcohol limit on the water is the same as on land, 0.08 blood alcohol concentration (BAC)
- NC also allows a boat operator to be charged if appreciably impaired. This is an additional consideration Wildlife Officers have when someone has been drinking and boating but is not over the legal limit. Wind and waves, combined with heat, glare, motor noise and vibrations create a condition known as boater fatigue, which accelerates impairment and affects coordination and reaction time that magnifies the effects of alcohol in some individuals.
Remember to be safe this holiday weekend and enjoy the beautiful weather. Neglecting a few minutes to be prepared and planned before heading out on the water is not worth a BUI or even worst, hurting others.