Column: No boat fatalities over Independence Day weekend


Ohio’s waters remained safe over the long July 4th weekend with no boating-related fatalities occurring during Operation Dry Water, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Alcohol use while boating is the leading factor in boater deaths nationwide.

“Alcohol is involved in about one of every four fatal boating-related accidents in Ohio, making it critical to always have a sober captain when boating,” said ODNR Division of Parks and Watercraft Chief Mike Bailey.

During Operation Dry Water, which is a nationwide crackdown initiative aimed at removing impaired boaters from public waterways, ODNR officers contacted 1,504 boaters on 530 vessels for various violations of Ohio watercraft and local laws.

The officers and their law enforcement partners issued five boating under the influence violations. In Ohio, individuals driving a boat with a blood alcohol content above the state limit of .08 will be arrested for BUI and face other serious penalties, including fines, jail and loss of privileges to register and to operate boats.

Watercraft officers also issued 51 citations and 370 boating safety warnings. There were no boating-related fatalities in Ohio during the 2017 Operation Dry Water weekend.

Alcohol can impair a boater’s judgment, balance, vision and reaction time. Alcohol also increases fatigue. Alcohol use is dangerous for passengers as well. Intoxicated passengers can easily slip, fall overboard or suffer other life-threatening accidents.

While state natural resources officers and local marine patrols are always on the lookout for impaired boat operators, Operation Dry Water is an organized national effort that focuses greater awareness of the need for boaters to boat smart, boat sober and make a commitment to staying safe on the water.

The ODNR Division of Parks and Watercraft is responsible for managing Ohio’s 74 state parks and providing the finest outdoor recreational opportunities, including first-class boat services, facilities and law enforcement for users of Ohio’s waterways and public lands.

Tips to staying safe on the water:

– Boat sober. Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in recreational boater deaths*. Alcohol and drug use impairs a boater’s judgment, balance, vision and reaction time.

– ALWAYS wear your life jacket. 83% of drowning victims were not wearing a life jacket*.

– Take a boating safety education course. 77% of deaths occurred on boats where the operator did not receive boating safety instruction, where instruction was known*.

• With the summer swim season in full swing, the ODNR also reminds visitors to keep an eye on their children. This is the central message of the department’s SwimSafe! program, which reminds visitors to stay alert and “keep an eye on the kids” while swimming at state park beaches and pools.

Most park swimming areas are designated “swim at your own risk,” and do not have lifeguards on duty. To ensure a fun and safe beach outing, the ODNR Division of Parks and Watercraft offer these tips:

– Stay alert and keep a sharp eye on young children while they are in the water.

– Swim only in designated areas at the beach and lake.

– Use the buddy system and designate one member of the party to remain on the beach to keep watch on the others while they swim.

– Lakes are not pools. The water is murky, and it may not be visible where it becomes deeper so exercise caution.

– When planning a trip, check water quality advisories at Ohio Department of Health’s BeachGuard website at before leaving for the beach.

– Bring a cellphone to make an emergency call if necessary. Check to see if the phone works in that location.

– Enjoy the fun that water offers, but take regular breaks and relax on the beach.

– Alcohol and swimming do not mix. Leave these beverages at home when going to the beach.

Remember—it cannot be said enough—keep an eye on the kids. Until next time, Good Hunting and Good Fishing!


Water and Wings by Ken Parrott



Ken Parrott is an Agricultural Science teacher with Northmor High School.


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