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MONDAY, APRIL 9, 2007
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Student video shows dangers of drinking and driving a boat

Having worked a law enforcement officer for many years in a former life, I have had to perform one of the worst jobs in the world — telling people that a loved one has been killed.

Many accidents happen each year on roadways and waterways. And many of the accidents involve alcohol.

In 2005-06, Alabama marine police wrote 111 alcohol-related citations for boating under the influence.

Of those, 97 also received a citation for illegal possession of alcohol.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ marine police officers will be out in full force this spring and summer looking for alcohol/drug violations and other boating problems. Data shows that in boating deaths involving alcohol use, more than half the victims capsized their boats and/or fell overboard.

In an effort to reduce those numbers, ADCNR marine police officers and Benjamin Russell High School’s media department produced a new video focusing on the dangers of operating watercraft while intoxicated. The Sink or Swim (S.O.S.) video, which targets young people, stresses safe and responsible boating practices and warns that drinking and driving on the water can kill, just like on the road.

S.O.S. originally was a product of marine police officer Mark Fuller.

“After viewing the ‘Every 15 Minutes’ video produced last year by BRHS for their school, I thought that a video containing the same message pertaining to watercraft would be well-received and maybe save lives,” Fuller said in a release.

“Every 15 Minutes” is used by high schools to convey a simple but alarming message — every 15 minutes someone in the United States dies in an alcohol-related traffic collision.

S.O.S. is a re-enactment of a fatal boat crash complete with emergency response by medical, fire and law enforcement agencies including marine police and, sadly, the coroner’s office and funeral home.

ADCNR commissioner M. Barnett Lawley said in a release that he thinks the video will be well received.

“Sometimes it takes the hard reality of this type of accident to make kids think about the consequences that could affect them for the rest of their lives,” Lawley said.

“Using safe boating practices helps make recreation on our waters more enjoyable for everyone.”

Corky Pugh, Alabama marine police director, said in a release that he hopes the video will remind teenagers about the dangers of operating any watercraft while impaired.

“This video will serve as a valuable educational resource to make kids think about the major responsibilities of operating watercraft,” Pugh said. “Also, I would like to see the kids take the message home to their parents that underage drinking and/or being intoxicated at any age while operating watercraft on Alabama’s waterways is against the law and that the law will be strongly enforced.”

I have spoken with dozens of people who think you have to be fully intoxicated to be in violation of the law. People need to look carefully at how the violation is spelled out. Driving under the influence for some people could mean having consumed only one beer.

Another scenario I noticed many times is people launching their boats completely sober but returning to the docks completely intoxicated. If driving a boat on the water impaired isn’t bad enough, after loading their boat they soon will be driving a vehicle on the roadway.

Simply put, alcohol and
driving a boat or vehicle is a deadly combination.

If you get arrested for
driving under the influence, don’t try to use the excuse that you didn’t know it was wrong — it will not work.

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Paul Stackhouse
Outdoors
Paul Stackhouse

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