Boating OUI message making an impact

Safety checks, however, show need for improvement

Game and Fish Region 3 wildlife manager Luke Apfel tests a possibly impaired watercraft operator in 2013. Game and Fish and other agencies, including the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office, have focused on educational campaigns over the past several years to reduce the number of impaired operators on the county’s congested waterways. That effort has begun to pay dividends. (Courtesy)

Game and Fish Region 3 wildlife manager Luke Apfel tests a possibly impaired watercraft operator in 2013. Game and Fish and other agencies, including the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office, have focused on educational campaigns over the past several years to reduce the number of impaired operators on the county’s congested waterways. That effort has begun to pay dividends. (Courtesy)

KINGMAN - Drinking while operating a watercraft incidents were down conspicuously on Mohave County waterways over Memorial Day weekend, with two people arrested and only 19 of 136 operators having consumed any amount of alcohol, according to reports from the Mohave County Sheriff's Office and the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

Last year, seven arrests were made for operators allegedly under the influence of alcohol or drugs at a single checkpoint, Katherine Landing near Bullhead City.

"It's nice to see a drop from nearly 30 percent consuming alcohol down to 14 percent," said Karin Perkins, law enforcement program manager with the Game and Fish Region 3 office in Kingman. "I certainly hope the educational efforts are paying off and people are designating a sober operator before taking to the water."

Forty-five of 160 contacts had been drinking alcohol over Memorial Day weekend last year.

And while law enforcement's efforts in recent years to make operators aware that boating drunk is as dangerous as driving drunk have appeared to pay dividends, Perkins said another educational effort regarding boating safety has apparently failed.

In fact, she said, there was no change between last Memorial Day weekend and this year in the three most common violations: No Type IV throwable (15 citations), no fire extinguisher (10 citations) and an insufficient number of lifejackets (three citations).

Overall, compliance at the checkpoint was 82 percent.

"Each of these citations can be easily avoided by reviewing the regulations," said Perkins. "There's a reason for these items being required on watercraft and it is certainly cheaper to be compliant than to receive a citation and then have to become compliant afterwards."

Another common issue with operators is those who have the required items onboard, but have no idea where everything is.

"We had contacts with people who had the required equipment, but it took them a long time to find it," said Perkins, who pointed out having the equipment won't do much good if nobody knows where to find it in an emergency.

While Game and Fish cited one boater for OUI and another for being impaired in the slightest, Mohave County deputies arrested a pair for alleged OUI.

Still, the holiday weekend is the traditional opening of the summer boating season and incidents were down across the board from prior years.

There was one minor boating accident that did not result in any injuries. Nine safety violations and 65 warnings were issued.

Thirty-five boater assists were provided, along with four agency assists and one medical assist, according to sheriff's office spokeswoman Trish Carter.

Deputies also responded to one domestic violence call.

"We are happy to report a continued downward trend in activity on holiday weekends," said Deputy Ed Trafecanty.

"Through continued proactive enforcement efforts, we are pleased to report that our agency handled only one minor non-injury accident. Arrests for operating under the influence continue to decline with only two arrests for the weekend."

Mobile users click here for OUI public service video