The recent warm weather has inspired boaters to head out onto lakes and rivers across the region, seeking fun, adventure and relief from the heat.
We don't want to douse anyone's enjoyment with cold water, but we feel the need to join the U.S. Coast Guard in reminding mariners that there a rules to go along with the recreation.
The Coast Guard had a busy weekend across the record-hot Great Lakes region. They apprehended a number of recreational boaters who were operating their vessels under the influence of alcohol, prompting reminders that drinking and boating don't mix.
Boat operators whose blood alcohol content is above the legal limit - defined as 0.1 percent in Michigan waters - run a higher risk of having a boating accident. And they're not only putting themselves at risk, but they're endangering their passengers and other boaters, too.
There's no place for drinking and boating. The marine environment isn't forgiving to the alcohol impaired - it can often make the effects of intoxication worse. Motion, vibration, engine noise, sun, wind and spray can accelerate a drinker's impairment. The Coast Guard warns that these "maritime stressors" can greatly affect a boat operator's judgment, vision, balance and coordination.
But despite awareness campaigns and stepped-up enforcement, alcohol continues to be a leading contributing factor in recreational boating accidents, injuries and deaths. Across the U.S., there were 758 deaths in 2011 as a result of recreational boating accidents. Statistics show alcohol use played a lead role in 16 percent of the boating deaths that year. That's a shockingly high number for a cause that is completely preventable.
If the threat of injury or death isn't enough to dissuade drunk boaters, consider the consequences of boating under the influence: voyage termination, arrest, civil penalties, jail time or, in some jurisdictions, loss of boating privileges.
There are rules of the water, just like there are rules of the road. Boat operators aren't exempt.
For more information on alcohol safety and boating, visit the website of Operation Dry Water, an annual nationwide law enforcement surge set for the last weekend of June, at www.operationdrywater.org.