-When you drive under the influence everyone knows what can happen, but did you know the same penalties stand for boating under the influence?
That was a topic of discussion during a press conference that took place Thursday morning at the Lake Wallenpaupack Visitors Center. Members of the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission, the National Park Service, the Eastern Pike Regional Police Department and PennDOT talked about safety and being responsible, especially when celebrating the upcoming 4th of July Weekend.
"BUIs mirror DUIs and share the same penalties," said Robert Plumb, Waterways Conservation Officer for the Pa. Fish & Boat Commission in the Northeast Region. "The real difference between the two are the many different factors that happen on a boat. You can drink fairly well when you're in your backyard, but once you put that with a boat and you're out here in the sun all day long, with dehydration, the moving of the boat, different things that are around you, just staying out all day in this enhances how much consumption you can take."
He added that the alcohol seems to take effect a lot sooner than what it would be on land.
"We are asking if you are a person who drinks when on boat that you designate a driver just like you do with car," he said. "If you're not comfortable to let someone else drive when you're out here then you don't drink. It's that simple. We're dealing with people's lives out here and mostly vacationers."
Plumb stated that people are coming here to "have a good time away from their jobs and everyday life" and that they come here to "enjoy themselves and recreate."
"We just ask that you would take into consideration when you're out boating," Plumb explained. "There have been many different boat accidents throughout year and they happen on rivers, lakes and aren't always BUI related. Accidents do happen, but when they happen with drinking, it hits home for different people because the accident could've been avoided in most cases just by someone taking control and deciding not to drink."
Plumb also talked about a program that will be taking place this weekend, June 28-30, called Operation Dry Water. He said they are trying to encourage "no drinking at all" when out on the waterways, "especially when driving a boat."
"At .08 you are still legally drunk in a boat as you are in a car," he stated.
Page 2 of 4 - Bryan Bendock, a sergeant for the Pa. Fish & Boat Commission said that this year, for the first time, the commission is in a co-op with PP&L that will "provide additional patrols on Lake Wallenpaupack this summer." This will occur mainly on the weekends.
"It's a great benefit to preventing and apprehending persons under the influence on the lake," he stated. "The program can help enhance our limited resources that we at the commission have to patrol here. It's not just here in Lake Wallenpauack. We have issues in lakes, rivers and other parts too."
He added that Lake Wallenpaupack is probably "one of the busiest boating areas in the state" as far as the concentration of boats goes.
"It makes it especially critical that persons operating boats and others on boats are aware of their alcohol consumption," Bendock said. "Recently all officers in the northeast part of the state completed a nationally approved study for conducting sobriety tests for persons suspected of being under influence. All 14 of us are now certified. For some of them it was a refresher, but we've all gone back through that training in preparation for this busy boating season."
"We are out there in force as well as other law enforcement departments around Pennsylvania and we ask that you have good time on the 4th July weekend," said Chad Stewart, chief of the Eastern Pike Regional Police Department. "However, we ask if you're going to be out drinking that you designate a driver. Just like BUIs, with DUIs we find that a major problem is that the designated driver ends up drinking. Make sure the designated driver doesn't end up drinking. We will be out in force with roving patrols and DUI checkpoints throughout Pennsylvania. We ask everyone to stay safe."
He added that boaters should make sure they have life jackets and fire extinguishers.
"People don't often think of fire extinguishers, but you never know if something could go wrong," he said.
Kevin Reish, U.S. Park Ranger for the National Park Service said they "enforce the same as the Fish & Boat Commission and similar organizations."
"Alcohol is still a major concern for us," he said. "We average two drownings a year. We want visitors to be safe and return home to their families. Be safe, wear a lifejacket and don't be intoxicated."
He added that they are also running a water safety campaign this year and said there have been "no drownings yet."
Page 3 of 4 - "We want to keep it that way," Reish stated. "Come out, enjoy, but be safe and do it wisely."
"Those of you with teenage children know how scary it is that first time you take your car keys and hand them to your 16-year-old and say see you in a little bit," said James May, District 4 Press Officer for PennDOT. "We focus on the idea of making sure the public is safe. This takes on a whole new meaning when your child is behind the wheel or when you think of them on the road with others driving. Please make sure, for the sake of us who are parents, make sure you never are intoxicated when you get behind the wheel."
May said there are special rules and laws for teenage drivers and those who are under 21 and that Pennsylvania has a "no tolerance law," which means if you are caught with even .02 alcohol in your system, you will face "very severe penalties."
These include: 12-18 month license suspension, 48 hours to six months in jail and $500-$5,000 fines if you are caught.
"Even if you simply have alcohol it's against the law for anyone under 21 to consume, possess or just transport alcohol, lie about their age to obtain and carry a fake ID," he said. "Even that will have penalties such as $500 in court costs and license suspension. This is a very serious issue. Make sure if you're under 21 that you don't even have alcohol on you, but beyond that, make sure you never drink and drive. We want folks to have a very enjoyable holiday, but a safe holiday, whether on boat or in a car or whether you are transporting a boat to the water. Make sure you're safe out there."
According to information from PennDOT, in 2012, between June 29 and July 8, there were 355 crashes involving impaired driving that occurred, which resulted in 20 people losing their lives. Law enforcement across Pennsylvania will be taking part in the national Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign in an effort to "focus on keeping families safe from impaired driver surrounding the 2013 Independence Day travel and boating holiday period.
The DUI enforcement began on June 24.
In regards to boating under the influence, Waterways Conservation officers issued 1,865 summary citations for boating violations in 2012. There were also 11,800 warnings for boating violations issued by officers.
The following were also found in 2012: 37,330 safety boardings on recreational boats; more than 130 patrol craft conducted patrols by vehicle and foot; 60 arrests were made for BUIs.; and a total of 46 reportable boating accidents.
Page 4 of 4 - BUI historical arrest statistics starting since 2006 are as follows: 60 (2006), 77 (2007), 82 (2008), 59 (2009), 65 (2010), 62 (2011) and 60 in 2012.