Kentucky's finest join forces to promote sober boating
By Lee McClellan
When Kentuckians think of their state being in the top 10, people assume that means their college basketball team has a chance to go to the Final Four.
Unfortunately, this ranking isn’t related to basketball. In 2005, Kentucky had 20 boating fatalities – which the U.S. Coast Guard ranked as eighth highest in the nation.
“We are in the top 10 in the nation for boating fatalities, but we are twenty-eighth in the number of registered boats with roughly 180,000,” said Sgt. John Anderson, boating education coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “About half of all of our fatalities on the water are alcohol related. That is double the national average.”
Boating fatalities in Kentucky dropped to 16 last year, but alcohol still played a role in half of them.
To combat the problem of impaired boaters, Kentucky Fish and Wildlife’s law enforcement division are partnering with Kentucky State Police for their “Keep It a Safe Summer” sober boating and driving campaign. “We know drunk boaters on the water become drunk drivers on the highway,” Anderson explained. “We are trying to combat these issues on both fronts, on the water and on the highways.”
Although Kentucky passed a boating under the influence law in 1998, many people still don’t realize that it is illegal to drink alcoholic beverages in a boat while on the waters in Kentucky - whether you are operating the boat or not. “It is considered drinking in public,” Anderson said.
Boaters exposed to the wind, vibration, noise, sun and dehydration of a day on the water develop boater’s fatigue. Together, these environmental stressors can significantly reduce the boat operator’s reaction time. “Then, you add alcohol,” Anderson said. “It is going to take a lot less to impair your judgment and reaction time. Boating is the perfect all-American, wholesome activity, but having fun can take a toll on you.”
Raising awareness with the Keep It a Safe Summer campaign should help Kentucky fall out of the top 10. It’s one of the few times that we’ll be glad to slip in the rankings.