Agencies team up to enforce safe boating on holiday weekend

HARDIN COUNTY, Tenn. — What better way to celebrate your independence than out on the water?

“It gets crazy out here on the lake, lots of lots of boaters,” boat owner Logan Collier said. “Especially these holiday weekends. There are a lot more boaters than a normal weekend.”

But with more boats and more celebration comes more potential for accidents.

“You’re going to have a lot of kids on the water fishing and bass boats that go really fast, and then you’ve got people drinking alcohol and other boats going fast,” Collier said. “And you know, bad things can happen when you mix alcohol and speed, and water and heat.”

So the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency along with agencies from Mississippi and Alabama have teamed up to keep the waters safe this Fourth of July weekend for the nationwide Operation Dry Water campaign.

“All across the country, officers will be out on the water patrolling, doing extra details to enforce BUIs, or boating under the influence,” said Lt. Ricky Barry of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.

Boaters we spoke with Wednesday say they’ve witnessed so much drinking and driving while out on their boat over the Fourth of July weekend that they now choose to celebrate on shore.

“People get wild. They get crazy, and safety is not one of their priorities,” boat owner Sandra Hill said. “And for us with families, that’s the most important thing is safety.”

Law enforcement also urges boaters to pay extra attention if out on the water at night.

“We encourage folks to come out on the water, enjoy their time out here,” Sgt. Ray Garton of the TWRA said. “Whether they’re recreational cruising, tubing, water skiing, whatever they’re doing out here, we want them to have fun, but we want them to do it safely.”

The legal limit for driving a boat under the influence is .08. The TWRA says, along with getting seriously injured, getting caught above that can also lead to jail time, significant fines and loss of boating privileges.

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