Seven law enforcement agencies recently worked together to help provide a safe boating environment for watercraft users along the Colorado River.
Arizona Game and Fish, Mohave County Sheriff, US Fish and Wildlife Service, BLM, Lake Havasu City Police, Arizona State Parks and the Arizona Department of Public Safety recently conducted an Operating Under the Influence (OUI) and Safety Checkpoint at Katherine’s Landing in Bullhead City.
Four OUI arrests were made for exceeding the blood alcohol limit of .08, and one for drugs. Nearly a quarter (24 percent) of all boat operators had consumed alcohol. Overall compliance with required safety equipment was 86 percent.
A CONSEQUENCE-- of not knowing. As one boating-safety instructor put it, "Everyone on the water needs to understand how many scenarios ... can quickly turn into a life-or-death situation. If one is going on a boat, [he or she needs to] take a few minutes to learn what is required prior to launching."
Velma Holt, west sector supervisor for the Game and Fish Kingman office, was pleased to see a safety-equipment compliance rate increase of 13 percent since a similar checkpoint in 2009. She believes the outreach effort that has reached an estimated 8,000 boaters in the last four years has played a role.
“The regulations are in place for a reason,” Holt said. “There are a lot of potential dangers on our waterways, not the least of which is the sheer number of boats using a limited amount of space.”
Holt also mentioned cold water temperatures, alcohol, and inexperienced boaters as other potential safety issues.
“Boat Safe, Boat Smart, and Boat Sober,” Holt said, referring to the safety slogan. “Game and Fish also offers free boating education, which covers safety issues, regulations, and the required equipment prior to launch.”
While compliance improved, the fact that 24 percent of operators had consumed alcohol is a concern for Holt.
“I’m pleased we only made five arrests, but alcohol and this heat are always a dangerous combination, regardless of the blood-alcohol content,” Holt said. “Just as with driving, boaters should assign a designated operator before taking to the water. And don’t forget, when the day on the water ends, these same operators are then getting in their cars and taking to the roads.”
Some of the more common safety equipment violations have been not having enough lifejackets, lack of a throwable floatation device, and not having a fire extinguisher. Throwable floatation devices are critical to avoid one person’s jumping in the water to try to save another.
“That simply puts two people at risk,” Holt said. “Everyone on the water needs to understand how many scenarios on the water can quickly turn into a life-or-death situation. If you are going on a boat, take a few minutes to learn what is required prior to launching.”
To learn more about boating education classes, visit azgfd.gov/boating and see page 3 of this issue of Arizona Boating & Watersports/Western Outdoor Times September Online.
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