Wildlife officers promote water safety

Published 2:39 pm Thursday, July 2, 2009

Safety first.

Not just for the Independence Day holiday, but throughout the boating season and the year.

The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission is taking part in Operation Dry Water which is coordinated by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators to conduct vessel safety inspections and random checkpoints.

“All public waterways in North Carolina are subject to additional patrols,” said Captain Chris Huebner, the state boating safety coordinator. “Operating a recreational vessel while under the influence of an impairing substance or with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher is against the law.”

The statewide effort will be happening in the Roanoke-Chowan region as well. Hertford County Wildlife Officer Tim Wadsworth and Gates County Wildlife Officer George Owens will be spending time on the rivers of their counties in the coming days.

“We’re going to be out throughout the summer and we’ll be on continuing the operation when we’re on the water in the winter time,” Wadsworth said.

As for the holiday weekend, Wadsworth urged people who were out on the water during the weekend to have a designated boat operator.

“Personally, I would say have a designated operated,” he said. “When you are on the water, someone could actually blow a .04, but because of the waves and sun, they could still be impaired.”

While there is no speed limit on the water, Wadsworth said there are laws against being carless and negligent.

“If I feel like you wouldn’t have time to stop if someone didn’t see you and came out, then I would consider you being careless,” he said.

The officer also said it was important for people just to use good common sense and be careful, especially during this holiday weekend.

“We’ll have people out on the water going to fireworks and those types of events,” Wadsworth said. “They need to make sure they are using their lights and being careful.

“Overall, it’s important to be safe,” he added. “You not only have to look out for yourself, but you have to look out for everyone else. It’s just like being on the road.”

During the opening weekend of Operation Dry Water, 43 citations were issued in North Carolina for Operating While Impaired (OWI) and two Driving While Impaired (DWI) citations were given.

Those numbers are an important part of why the Operation was launched.

“Over 20 percent of boating-related fatalities are alcohol related,” said Lt. Todd Radabaugh, a wildlife officer in Pender County and the state’s lead instructor for boating-under-the-influence detection training. “Sun, wind and waves, noise, vibration and motion can create a condition known as boater fatigue, which can help magnify the effects of alcohol. Being inebriated is dangerous for passengers too, who can more easily slip, fall overboard or suffer dangerous accidents.”

Wadsworth said the bottom line was having the rivers in the Roanoke-Chowan, state and nation to be safe.

“We want everyone to have a good time on the water, but to be safe and under control,” he said. “Operating a boat while drinking is a bad idea any way you look at it.”

More information about Operation Dry Water is available at www.nasbla.org.