GA DNR speaks on boating safety ahead of holiday weekend

Boating safety this summer

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - This holiday weekend, law enforcement will be on local streets and waterways working to keep you safe.

Just like there are DUI charges on the road, there are BUI charges if you’re too drunk to drive a boat.

This weekend, the temperatures will be in the triple digits, and if you plan to hit the water, keep in mind, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources has the authority to stop any boat for a safety inspection, or conduct a field sobriety test if they suspect the driver is past the legal drinking limit to drive any water vessel.

“We try to make sure we have a reasonable suspicion or probable cause before we do that,” said Barry Britt, GA DNR, Game Warden.

Even though you can drive a boat and drink, once you reach .08 blood alcohol level, it’s time to let someone else take over on the water.

“The alcohol can impair their their judgement, their reaction time, and their alertness, which makes the probability of them having some kind of accident increase or go up,” Britt said.

Over the past five years, Georgia DNR in Chatham County has written 10 Boating under the Influence tickets, but when you look at their incidents statewide over the past five years, nearly 1,000 BUI’s have been issued. Our area includes several counties under the area “Brunswick," and is on the lower end of experiencing boating incidents, so if a boat is getting too close to the shore, docks, or swerving, they can expect to be flagged down to pull over.

"We’ll talk to them, we’ll say 'hey, do you mind putting on a life jacket, stepping onboard our vessel, let us do field sobriety exercises so we can determine how impaired you are,” Britt said.

A Boating under the Influence charge is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a $1,000 fine, and if you absolutely have to drink while on the water, here’s a little advice.

“Nurse it, you know. Just sip it a little bit throughout the day if you want to have alcohol and your gonna operate the vessel. Just take it real slow and take it real easy while you’re out,” Britt said.

Georgia DNR says BUIs apply to all water vessels, so boats, jet skis, wave runners, and sail boats.

Chatham County Marine Patrol, Georgia DNR, and the U.S. Coast Guard all issue BUIs locally.

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