Local News

Wildlife officials out enforcing boating safety regulations

Posted May 30, 2011 12:25 p.m. EDT
Updated May 30, 2011 7:18 p.m. EDT

— Don't drink and drive – it's a reminder all too familiar on the holidays, and that's why several state agencies are teaming up to crack down on drunken drivers and boaters.

Officers with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission are out patrolling this Memorial Day to help keep the waterways safe.

According to the commission, there are more than 300,000 boats registered in the state, making boating one of the state's most popular recreational activities. In nearly one in three deaths where a car or boat is involved, alcohol is also a factor.

Wildlife officer Brent Ward says that North Carolina sets the same blood-alcohol concentration limit of .08 for boating as it does for driving.

"It is OK to have alcohol on the boat and for people to consume (it) but once you have consumed the amount that you become impaired, that's when you have broken the law," he said.

Another reminder for boaters, Ward says, is to remember to have lifejackets of the proper size and type always accessible.

A new regulation that people still aren't familiar with, he says, took effect in 2009 and requires that all children under age 13 wear a lifejacket at all times while in any type of boat, including canoes, kayaks and other non-motorized watercraft.

Anyone younger than 26 who operates a boat must also meet boating safety requirements that went into effect in May 2010. They must have enrolled in a state-approved course and passed a standardized test to be in compliance with the laws. The courses are offered free throughout the state, as well as online.

Boating officers patrol approximately 5,000 square miles of bodies of water, and 220 public boating access areas, the commission says.