KINGMAN - Authorities recently made five arrests on local waterways for operating a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
They will be out again for the next few days for the Labor Day weekend, which is largely considered the last weekend of the summer.
The OUI arrests were made during a safety checkpoint at Katherine's Landing in Bullhead City. Participating agencies included the Arizona Game and Fish, Mohave County Sheriff, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Lake Havasu City Police, Arizona State Parks and the Arizona Department of Public Safety.
Four OUI arrests were made for operating a boat while exceeding the blood alcohol limit of .08, while one person was arrested for operating a boat under the influence of drugs. According to Velma Holt, west sector supervisor for the Game and Fish Kingman office, nearly 24 percent of all boat operators who were stopped at the checkpoint had consumed some level of alcohol. Overall compliance with required safety equipment was 86 percent.
Holt said she was pleased to see a safety equipment compliance rate increase of 13 percent since a similar checkpoint in 2009.
"The regulations are in place for a reason," she said. "There are a lot of potential dangers on our waterways, not the least of which is the sheer number of boats using a limited amount of space." Holt also mentioned cold water temperatures, alcohol, and inexperienced boaters as other potential safety issues.
While compliance improved, the fact that 24 percent of operators had consumed alcohol is a concern for Holt.
"I'm pleased we only made five arrests, but alcohol and this heat are always a dangerous combination, regardless of the blood-alcohol content," Holt said. "Just as with driving, boaters should assign a designated operator before taking to the water.
"And don't forget, when the day on the water ends, these same operators are then getting in their cars and taking to the roads."
Some of the more common reported safety equipment violations include not having enough life jackets, lack of a throwable flotation device and not having a fire extinguisher.
Throwable flotation devices are critical to avoid one person jumping in the water to try and save another," Holt said.
"That simply puts two people at risk," she said. "Everyone on the water needs to understand how many scenarios on the water can quickly turn into a life-or-death situation. If you are going on a boat, take a few minutes to learn what is required prior to launching."
Those interested in taking a boating education class are encouraged to visit the Game and Fish web site at www.azgfd.gov/boating.