Drunken boating crackdown: Increased patrols this weekend

By Matt Butner - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - If you plan on boating this weekend, stay dry. That's the message from the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. They'll be cracking down on drunken boaters Friday through Sunday as part of "Operation Dry Water."

"If it's a good warm weather weekend, it should be a pretty busy weekend," said Thomas Mecadon, Conservation Police Officer.

Part of Thomas Mecadon's job is to make sure people are being safe on the water.

"One of the big ones is probably bow riding - they'll sit up there right on the bow, they won't have a railing on the side, and that's pretty dangerous," said Mecadon.

When it comes to drinking and boating, he says people tend to ignore the rules in favor of having a good time.

"It's a Saturday afternoon, or Friday night, or Sunday afternoon - it's sunny and warm outside, and people just forget," he said.

The rules about drinking on the water are the same as the rules on the road - if your blood alcohol is .08 or higher, you're breaking the law.

"Boats like this don't turn on a dime," said boater Art Bachman.

Art Bachman has years of experience at the helm of the "Free Breeze." He says in addition to being illegal, drunken boating is simply unsafe.

"Drinking and boating don't mix. There's no place for it. Nobody who drives one of these big boats like I have should be drinking at all," Bachman said.

But the law doesn't just apply to big boats. Smaller craft like jet skis fall under the same rules. Officer Mecadon wants people to use common sense when heading out for a day of fun on the water.

"They're just looking to have a good time, and they just need to remember that if you're going to drink, you need to designate a driver for the boat or just leave the alcohol on land," said Mecadon.

If you're drinking and boating this weekend, don't be surprised if this boat pulls up alongside you.  Operation Dry Water will include increased patrols and checkpoints where officers will give breath tests. Penalties for drunken boating can include fines and jail time. Officers can even impound your boat and revoke your boating privileges.

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