Authorities warn against drinking and boating on Ohio River

CINCINNATI (FOX19) - Ohio authorities are out in full force looking for impaired boaters over the Fourth of July weekend.

The effort is part of Operation Dry Water, a national campaign aimed to deter drinking and boating.

Drinking on the water is just as dangerous, if not more, as driving drunk.  The combination of sun, heat, wind, noise and the vibrations of the boat intensify the effects of alcohol, according to Ohio State Parks and Watercraft Chief Mike Bailey.

"Drinking tends to be one of the highest probabilities in all boating-related crashes in the state of Ohio, and the United States, where fatalities are involved," said ODNR Officer Michael Sterwerf.

Sterwerf says officers on the Ohio River will be doing more than just writing tickets and making arrests. They want to ensure boaters are practicing safe boating habits.  Officers are keeping an eye on wake violations, out-of-date registrations and making sure boaters wear life jackets.

The United States Coast Guard will join ODNR in patrolling the Ohio River.

The paddle enforcement extends across the river toward Kentucky. Ohio and Kentucky practice a "memorandum of understanding" that allows each entity to patrol from bank to bank on the Ohio River, Sterwerf said.

Authorities offer these tips to stay 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

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