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Boaters Beware: Sobriety Checkpoints Afloat on Area Lakes

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Richard Ratz, Jordan Lake Boater
PITTSBORO — There's no doubt there will be a lot of partying to celebrate IndependenceDay on area lakes this weekend. On the way to the lakes, you may run intosobriety checkpoints. But you may not expect to be monitored on the wateras well. Every year on the 4th of July, 60 people die in boatingaccidents. Many of those accidents can be attributed to alcohol.

State wildlife officers and park officials aren't fooling around thisweekend. They're serious when it comes to drinking and boating on arealakes. Drinking and driving a boat is just as dangerous as drinking anddriving a car.

Jordan Lake park superintendent Mike Seigh says reaction time slows,judgment is impaired, and many times speed is underestimated by a boaterwho has had too much to drink. The result can be a collision.

Richard Ratz boats out at Jordan Lake almost every week. While he has noqualms about having a few beers out on the water, he knows theconsequences of being drunk behind the wheel. For a car and a boat, theoutcome can be similar. Ratz believes someone can be killed just as faston the water as out on the road.

The greater effect on some people is the hot, summer sun. Plus parkofficials say it can add to the natural distractions of boating. Theconstant beating of the waves and the soft motor can sometimes hypnotizean operator. A boater will become used to the sound and become lulledinto a safe sense of security.

That security can be washed away with thousands of people out on the lakeover the holiday weekend. A DWI offense in a boat will not affect aperson's driving record. It's a class two misdemeanor that carries withit up to $1,000 in fines and 30 days of community service. For a repeatoffender, jail time would then become a factor.

Park officials are asking boaters to thinksmart and be safe in their boats, just as they would in their cars..

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