ST. PAUL, Minn. - People who drink and then get behind the wheel have long been in the crosshairs of law enforcement.
Now people who drink and operate their boats have a target on their backs.
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) conservation officers and county sheriff's water patrol deputies will have extra patrols on state lakes and rivers on June 22-24 for Operation Dry Water.
The saturation is part of a nationwide effort to give boating under the influence (BUI) enforcement high visibility prior to the Fourth of July holiday and peak summer boating season.
Officers will be looking for boaters whose blood alcohol content is at or exceeds the 0.08 limit.
"We intend to reach out to as many people as possible about the hazards of boating under the influence," said Capt. Greg Salo, DNR Central Region enforcement manager. "Some boaters will face the consequences of boating under the influence. We would much rather arrest someone than to have to tell a family that the person is never coming home again."
BUI continues to be a major problem throughout the country. In Minnesota, alcohol was involved in 50 percent of 16 boating fatalities in 2011.
"We want people to have fun while boating," Salo said, "but the use of alcohol is a leading contributing factor in fatal recreational boating accidents. We recommend that people avoid drinking alcoholic beverages while boating. We have zero tolerance for anyone found operating a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs on Minnesota waters."
The DNR says boat operators and even passengers with a blood alcohol concentration above the legal limit run a significantly increased risk of being involved in a fatal boating accident. When impaired by alcohol, boating accidents are more probable and more deadly for both passengers and boat operators, many of whom capsize their boat or simply fall overboard.
Impaired boaters can expect penalties including a $1,000 fine, possible jail time, and loss of boat operating privileges for 90 days. Conviction for BUI goes on a person's automobile driver's license record and it may affect their car insurance.
(Copyright 2012 by KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. )