August is upon us, and many Missourians are hitting our state's waterways to enjoy the last days of summer. With so much traffic on the water, safe boating is paramount: the Missouri Highway Patrol is calling for the public's assistance during these last few weekends of summer fun. To promote safe boating on Missouri's rivers and lakes, the Patrol wants to remind boaters of the dangers associated with boating while intoxicated (BWI).
"The Missouri State Highway Patrol continues to ensure that Missouri's waterways are safe and enjoyable to the public," said Capt. Juan Villanueva, Troop D's commanding officer, in a news release. "Boaters are reminded that designating a sober skipper is always the safest bet if alcohol is going to be included in their boating experience."
Since Memorial Day, state troopers have conducted several boating sobriety checkpoints at various locations, issuing numerous tickets and warnings and arresting BWI offenders. During a recent enforcement effort that focused on the Niangua River and Table Rock Lake, four people were arrested for BWI and 15 minors were cited for possessing alcohol.
In terms of the law, a BWI offense is similar to a charge of drunk driving. And like drunk driving, boating while intoxicated can lead to dangerous accidents with serious ramifications. According to the American Boating Association (ABA), boating while intoxicated is the leading contributing factor to fatal boating accidents.
In Missouri, if your blood alcohol content is above .08%, you are legally intoxicated - and therefore, you are unable to operate a motor vehicle or water vessel safely. A first-offense BWI is a Class B misdemeanor, a second offense is a Class A misdemeanor, and a third offense is a Class D Felony. In addition, impaired boaters who cause injury to others can face additional criminal charges and legal consequences.
Because of multiple environmental factors, occupants of boats tend to become impaired more quickly. The Boating Safety Resource Center reports that "Alcohol is even more hazardous on the water than on land. The marine environment - motion, vibration, engine noise, sun, wind and spray - accelerates a drinker's impairment. These stressors cause fatigue that makes a boat operator's coordination, judgment and reaction time decline even faster when using alcohol." This means boaters must be especially mindful of the amount of alcohol they consume - and it's always best to designate a sober driver prior to hitting the water.
The Patrol encourages you to take steps to protect yourself and others on the waterways: keep alcohol use under control, don't serve alcohol to minors, and make safety your top priority. Doing so will help everyone on the water enjoy the last bit of summer safely.
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