With the upcoming July 4th holiday week, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) announced that their waterways conservation officers (WCO) will be focusing on keeping boaters safe by cracking down on boating under the influence (BUI).
The PFBC, in partnership with the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, is working to increase boater awareness of the hazards associated with boating under the influence, and to decrease the number of accidents and deaths attributed to impaired boating and other unsafe boating practices.
According to Col. Corey Britcher, Director of the PFBC Bureau of Law Enforcement, alcohol impairs judgment and reaction time on the water, just as it does when driving a car, even more so because of the added stressors of sun, heat, wind, and noise on a boat. Said Britcher, “Choosing to consume alcohol while boating puts everyone at risk, including passengers and people in the water. Our goal is to remove anyone choosing to operate a vessel impaired and to keep everyone else safe.”
Last year across the state, the PFBC reports that 15 individuals died in boating accidents. Alcohol was a contributing factor in three of the cases.
The agency puts boaters on notice that throughout the week, boaters will notice an increase in the numbers of officers on the water and at recreational boating checkpoints. This effort will result in the removal of impaired operators, providing a safe and enjoyable experience for boaters this boating season.
So far this year, PFBC waterways conservation officers have arrested 12 individuals for boating under the influence:
• Allegheny County, Allegheny River – 2
• Centre County, Sayers Lake – 1
• Crawford County, Conneaut Lake – 1
• Huntingdon County, Raystown Lake – 3
• Dauphin County, Susquehanna River – 3
• York County, Susquehanna River - 1
• Union County, Penns Creek – 1
Waterways conservation officers arrested 68 individuals in 2017; 90 individuals in 2016; 48 individuals in 2015; 93 individuals in 2014; 90 individuals in 2013.
Broken down by region, WCOs in 2017 arrested the following number of individuals for BUI:
· 7 in Northwest Region (Counties – Butler, Clarion, Crawford, Erie, Forest, Lawrence, Mercer, Venango, Warren)
· 16 in Southwest Region (Counties - Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Cambria, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Somerset, Washington, Westmoreland)
· 14 in Northcentral Region (Counties - Cameron, Centre, Clearfield, Clinton, Elk, Jefferson, Lycoming, McKean, Montour, Northumberland, Potter, Snyder, Tioga, Union)
· 19 in Southcentral Region (Counties - Adams, Bedford, Blair, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Fulton, Huntingdon, Juniata, Lebanon, Mifflin, Perry, York)
· 6 in Northeast Region (Counties - Bradford, Carbon, Columbia, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Monroe, Pike, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Wayne, Wyoming)
· 6 in Southeast Region (Counties - Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lancaster, Lehigh, Montgomery, Northampton, Philadelphia, Schuylkill)
“Many boaters may not know that the threshold for BUI is the same as with motor vehicles – 0.08 percent,” said Britcher. “If you are found to be impaired and operating a boat you will be arrested.”
The agency reminds boaters to remain sober while on the water and don’t forget to wear a life jacket as 85 percent of drowning victims were not wearing a life jacket. And interestingly, 71 percent of deaths on boats occurred where the operator did not receive safety instruction. As such, the agency highly recommends taking a boating safety education course.
Nick Hromiak has been an outdoors and automotive writer for over 30 years. He's been published in numerous national and state-wide outdoor magazines and newspapers.