Posted at: 06/30/2013 10:40 PM
By: Jenna Lohse
(ABC 6 News)-- Last year twelve people were killed in boating accidents in Minnesota, and in four of them, the driver was under the influence. Now the DNR is ramping up enforcement and targeting those boaters. The extra enforcement is a combination of federal, state, and local law enforcement officials targeting boaters who are drinking and driving.
The number of boats coming in and out of Fountain Lake in Albert Lea shows the weather is finally right for some time out on the water.
"It’s fun to go out on a boat and have some recreational time, but you still have to be safe out there," said boater Andrew Hayden.
The holiday weekend is just a few days away, and for many that means celebrations are in order.
"I don't mind people drinking in the boat, as long as the driver is sober," said Hayden.
Like driving a car, it is against the law for a person to drive a boat with a blood alcohol level of .08 or more.
"We have a zero tolerance policy here in the state of Minnesota. So we're asking folks to leave the alcohol on shore, better yet leave it at home," said Steven Chihak, DNR Conservation Officer.
Last year 158 people were arrested for boating while intoxicated in Minnesota, and now that more boaters are out on the water, Minnesota DNR Officials are stepping up patrols.
"One fatality is too many, one accident is too many and we would like to have zero accidents, zero fatalities in the state of Minnesota and that's what our effort is for," said Chihak.
For Andrew Hayden, the dangers of drinking on the water hit close to home. He experienced it firsthand last summer.
"People were out partying on a pontoon, driving around drinking and had their lights off and we were coming across the lake and hit them head on and that's because they were drunk and partying and not following the rules," said Hayden.
"It's not illegal to have fun so you just have to keep your limits in mind and not get too crazy," said Hayden.
The penalties for boating while intoxicated include losing your license and having your boat taken away.