RI State Police and DEM crack down on intoxicated boating

By Kirsten Glavin

kglavin@abc6.com

@kirstenglavin

The Rhode Island State Police and the Department of Environmental Management are joining forces.  Their goal during the next two weeks: crack down on those boating while intoxicated.

"The leading cause of our fatalities are alcohol related boating accidents,” said Jennifer Ogren, an Environmental Police Officer with the DEM.

State police and DEM Marine Units plan to hit the waterways hard in the coming weekends.  The joint task force mission is to reduce the number of alcohol and drug related crashes.

"A few years ago we did have a fatal boat accident involving alcohol and drugs, involving two young women who were killed. The other two passengers were seriously injured.  High speeds and alcohol were the result of that. And I think if they were sober, if they slowed down, we would have two lives with us here today,” said Ogren.

The DEM says drunk boating is just as dangerous as drunk driving. Only in a vehicle, the driver and passengers have access to seat belts. The organization, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, agrees.

"Being sober on our waterways on a boat is just as important as important as being sober in a vehicle on our regular roadways,” commented Eric Creamer, Executive Director of MADD RI.

According to the U.S. Coastguard, there were more than 4,000 crashes involving recreational boats last year.  In Rhode Island, there were 40, resulting in three deaths.

To prevent this, the DEM completes boat inspections.  However, they say boaters typically are able to get to their coolers, faster than they can get to safety equipment.

"If you're intoxicated and not working with all of your faculties, that puts you in a very dangerous position,” explained Ogren.

If a boat operator’s blood alcohol content exceeds .08 percent, an arrest will be made, along with a fine of up to $500.

(C) WLNE-TV 2015