Safety tips guaranteed to float your boat

Theyíll also keep you alive and out of jail, Sheriff Greg Champagne says

From staff and wire reports
June 06, 2007 at 3:27 pm  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

As summer approaches and the waterways of south Louisiana see more and more traffic, St. Charles Sheriff Greg Champagne wants anyone who decides to operate a watercraft to know that drinking and boating can turn into a deadly combination.

In a timely news release, the sheriff warns of the dangers of drinking while operating a watercraft.

"Many people who would never think of drinking and driving, think it's perfectly acceptable and safe to operate their boat after drinking. It isn't," Champagne said.

"In fact, 50 percent of all boating fatalities are alcohol related. Operating a boat while intoxicated is illegal and dangerous."

Citing accidental deaths as a prime cause for the concern, Champagne noted that boating while intoxicated is second only to driving while intoxicated as the most common way for people to fall victim to an accidental death.

"Boaters need to remember that alcohol and boating don't mix. Alcohol affects your balance, vision, judgment and coordination," he said. "It's ten times more likely that a boat operator with a blood alcohol content of .10 will be killed in a boating accident, than a boater with zero blood alcohol content."

Many factors come into play with a boater that is intoxicated that wouldn't normally affect a drunk driver but are every bit as dangerous to the operator of the boat and anyone on his vessel or near it.

Champagne said that research has shown that alcohol, combined with boating stressors, such as sun, wind, noise, vibration and motion can impair a person much faster than alcohol consumed on land. It impairs your ability to operate a vessel safely in the same way that it impairs your ability to drive a car safely.

"Balance is one of the first things you lose when you consume alcohol, and when you combine this with the rocking of the boat, the chance of falling overboard increases," he said. "Dehydration is also a factor. The sun causes you to perspire, which removes the water from your body but leaves the alcohol in. This can cause impairment to occur even faster."

Champagne offers a list of alternatives to drinking and operating a boat such as choosing bottled water instead or designating someone to stay sober if need be.

Other alternatives include:

∑ Take bottled water, sodas, ice tea, lemonade or non-alcoholic beer.

∑ Take plenty of food.

∑ Wear clothes made of breathable fabrics.

∑ Limit your trip to the time you can spend on the water without tiring yourself.

∑ Have the party ashore after you dock, where you'll have time between the fun and getting back

into your boat or car.

∑ If you dock somewhere for lunch or dinner and drink alcohol, wait a reasonable time before

heading back home.

∑ If necessary, designate a non-drinking driver as the boat operator. Or better still, in case of an

emergency, have two designated non-drinking operators.

∑ It's safer to have no alcohol on board. Remember, intoxicated passengers can fall overboard, too.

In addition, Champagne offered several tips for the prospective boater to stay safe on the local waterways:

∑ DO take a boating safety class.

∑ DO know your boat's load limit, and DON'T exceed it.

∑ DO file a float plan; tell people when you are leaving, where you are going and when you are

returning.

∑ DO check the weather forecast before you go. Bring a radio to regularly check weather reports.

∑ DO know how to swim. If you don't, LEARN.

∑ DO wear a life jacket. Life jackets float. You don't.

∑ DON'T mix alcohol and boating.

∑ DO observe the nautical rules of the road.

∑ DON'T stand in a small boat.

∑ DON'T overload your boat.

∑ DO keep a good lookout.

∑ DON'T overdo boating fun. In three hours of normal boating, the noise, motion, sun, wind and glare can frequently double an individual's reaction time.




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