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Designated Driver

Lake Havasu Initiates ‘Designated Operator’ Boater-Safety Campaign
Reducing OUIs, accidents are the goals for 2011 boating season.

Designated_Driver.gifDESIGNATED DRIVER -- In a concentrated effort to reduce the frightening statistic of boating deaths that are alcohol-related, Lake Havasu City is confronting an age-old boating safety problem. The 2011 boating season has begun, and so has the Designated Operator boater-safety campaign, which is supported by many safety-conscious individuals, organizations, businesses, media, and others.

LAKE HAVASU CITY, Ariz. — One of the nation's premier fresh-water boating destinations, Lake Havasu City, Ariz., is confronting an age-old boating-safety problem head-on: operating a recreational pleasure boat under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance.

In marine-law enforcement parlance, the offense is known as OUI, operating under the influence. In Arizona, the maximum legal limit is .08 percent blood alcohol concentration for boat operators, the same as it is for driving an automobile.

"We're determined to significantly reduce the number of intoxicated boaters on Lake Havasu," commented Jim Salscheider, executive director of the Lake Havasu Marine Association, the organization that is spearheading the new "carry-a-designated-operator" campaign.

"All we're asking is that every boat [skipper] designate one on-board person to be responsible for operating the boat on that day, one who is not going to consume an alcoholic beverage or ingest a controlled substance while on the water.

”It's a campaign that has been successful in reducing the number of highway accidents; now it's time for the boating community to embrace the same philosophy."

A Frightening Statistic

According to recent U.S. Coast Guard statistics, approximately one-third of all fatal recreational boating accidents nationwide are alcohol related. Kevin Bergersen, Law Enforcement Programs coordinator and State Boating Law administrator for Arizona Game and Fish said, "Boaters operating a vessel under the influence is an ongoing safety issue with all-too-often tragic consequences.

“Drunk boating is drunk driving. This grass-roots effort [among] state law enforcement agencies, the Lake Havasu boating community and business supporters will help boat operators understand that the Arizona penalties of watercraft operation and driving a vehicle while impaired are almost the same."

The first awareness of this new safety campaign has already begun. Six-foot by four-foot "carry-a-designated-operator" signs have been posted at several prominent public launch ramps around Lake Havasu.

"Our first sign just went up at Windsor Beach launch ramp," said Salscheider, "and will be followed by several more at other key boating ramps and facilities. The initial phase of this campaign is to create some recognition and get people thinking about being more responsible when boating.

‘It’s Worth Saving A Life’

“We don't want to spoil anybody's fun on the water, but operating a boat while impaired is a serious safety hazard. It doesn't seem like too great a sacrifice to ask just one person on-board to forego alcohol for a one day. It's certainly worth saving a life."

The "carry-a-designated operator" campaign will continue to accelerate as the 2011 boating season approaches. In addition to signage at major launch ramps, the program will be supported with an aggressive marketing strategy including articles, ads and press releases in prominent boating publications, local radio PSAs, consumer boat show exposure, e-mail blasts to known boaters, Web site links and social networking, and support from waterfront restaurants and bars.

"I'm very gratified by all the support this campaign has received in such a short period of time," remarked Salscheider. "Funding for this effort has initially come from private business.

Support, Cooperation From Many

“Hall of Champions boat racer, three-time World Offshore Champion and safety advocate Bob Teague of Teague Custom Marine, has graciously agreed to be our spokesperson, lending significant credibility to what we are trying to accomplish. And the cooperation by all facets of law enforcement have only strengthened our resolve to make a difference in creating a safer Lake Havasu for all boaters."

The Lake Havasu "carry-a-designated-operator" campaign is co-sponsored by Romer Beverage Company of Lake Havasu and Teague Custom Marine, Valencia, Calif.

Supporting agencies include Arizona Game and Fish, Arizona State Parks, Mohave County Sheriff, Lake Havasu City Police, and San Bernardino County Sheriff-Coroner Department. Participating restaurants/bars include Pirate Cove Resort and the Turtle Grille/Nautical Beachfront Resort.

Arizona Boating & Watersports/Western Outdoor Times enthusiastically supports this program and will provide updates as they become available.

"Carry a designated operator" was founded by the Lake Havasu Marine Association and is responsible for its implementation.

For more information, contact Lake Havasu Marine Association Executive Director Jim Salscheider at (928) 208-2442, or visit

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