Officials warn of dangers of drinking and boating

Operators and passengers can be put at risk.

State officials are warning people to follow state laws, especially those related to alcohol, while boating and fishing over this holiday weekend.

The same rules that apply to drinking and driving are enforced for people who are operating boats, said Ohio Department of Natural Resources Officer Chad Cruset.

“There is no difference from being in a boat or a car,” said Cruset. “The blood alcohol level is .08.”

There are approximately 474,601 registered boats in Ohio, according to ODNR records.

State Parks like Caesar Creek, in Waynesville, and Buck Creek, in Springfield are popular boating and fishing spots in the region.

The leading cause of boater deaths nationwide is alcohol use while boating, according to ODNR. “Alcohol can impair a boater’s judgment, balance, vision and reaction time. Alcohol also increases fatigue,” according to the agency’s website. The site also said alcohol use is dangerous for passengers who can slip and fall overboard or suffer other life-threatening accidents.

There are more forces affecting a person’s body when they are on the water, making drinking while operating a boat potentially more dangerous than being in a car, Cruset said.

“The heat and waves have an affect on your central nervous system,” Cruset said.

Alcohol is prohibited in Ohio state parks. Anyone caught drinking will be cited and can possibly be banned from the park, according to ODNR.

Officials are also encouraging boaters to plan ahead for emergencies.

Boats should be examined to make sure they have not been damaged. Officials also said having safety equipment is not enough, it needs to be in a please where it can be used during an emergency.

“A lot of people tuck life jackets up under the seats,” Cruset said. ” They need to be out where they can be seen and are readily accessible.

Mike Gigel plans to spend time at Ceasar’s Creek Lake this weekend with his children. “I always make sure we have life jackets and a whistle in case we need to call for help,” Gigel said. “I want to us to have a good time but I want us to be safe.”