Law enforcement hold boating DUI awareness event
Local law enforcement, Utah State Park Rangers and the Utah Highway Safety Office launched a new safety message at the start of one of the busiest boating seasons of the year — and one of the deadliest holidays.
Boaters and other recreation enthusiasts will find a unique message wrapped across boat docks at various state parks — “If You Can Drive it, You Can Get a DUI.”
Safety officials want people to know that no matter what vehicle they operate, if they drink and drive, they will be arrested.
“Over the past ten years, the Fourth of July holiday is one of the deadliest summer holidays for drunk driving,” said Sgt. Ted Tingey with Utah Highway Safety. “Anytime we have a major holiday, we will always have extra officers on patrol. The officers help as people are getting out of town for barbecues, boating and other activities and might be driving fatigued, while drinking, speeding or not wearing seat belts. We want people to think before they drink.”
The campaign will not only include messages on boat docks, but radio ads and billboard messages will provide detailed information on the effects of drunk driving and how to prevent it.
“We came up with the idea for the campaign because we have people who are out on boats drinking and getting impaired, but are having to then drive themselves home,” said Ty Hunter with Utah State Parks. “We patrol on the water, but we can’t catch everyone.”
There are 70,000 boats registered in Utah. Add that to boaters who come in from other states and officials see a lot of folks at lakes and reservoirs, Hunter said.
Utah Lake State Park has three park rangers, with 55 total rangers in Utah. Each county also partners with the rangers to help with law enforcement.
Brody Young, a Utah Stake Parks Ranger and the assistant Boating Program manager, said that during the upcoming holiday weekend, the rangers won’t leave the marina.
“Utah Lake is unusual because we have such a long area that people are launching from,” Young said. “We have a lot of people who come here to play and we love that, but we want them to do it safely.”
Rangers also patrol on the lake and can pull boats over for simple citations like not wearing life jackets, sitting in dangerous areas on the boat or improper towing. Other citations can be more serious, including DUI.
“We are able to complete field sobriety tests on the water,” Hunter said. “We want people to understand that the penalties for driving on the road DUI are the same as driving anything DUI. The penalties are the same and can include jail time, fines, loss of a driver’s license and impounding of vehicles, boats or trailers.”
The idea to work with law enforcement on the road is one that safety officials hope will be more effective.
“If people aren’t picked up for drunk driving on their boats, they have to go through Provo to get to where they are going,” said Provo senior officer Austin Williams. “We want to stop these people before they get to the east side and start causing problems. People need to think ahead about how they will get home if they are intoxicated.”
Utah County Sheriff’s deputies also patrol at all of the harbors surrounding the lake including Lindon, American Fork, Provo, Lincoln Beach and two in Saratoga Springs.
“We want people to know that driving drunk isn’t worth it,” said Deputy Shalen Nielson.
Tingey said that although there were only 23 alcohol related deaths in Utah last year that people need to see the big picture.
“There were 1,600 alcohol injuries that occurred last year,” Tingey said. “People will say that 23 deaths aren’t that many, but when you add in the amount of injuries that is too many. We want people to know if you can drive it, you can get a DUI.”
For more information about Utah’s DUI media campaign, please visit DriveSober.org.
- Whenever you plan on consuming alcohol, designate a sober driver before going out, and give that person your keys.
- If you’re impaired, call a taxi or call a sober friend or family member to get you home safely.
- Program the number of your local cab company in your cell phone before you go out so you’ll have it when you’re ready to head home.
- Promptly report drunk drivers you see on the roadways or waterways to law enforcement.
- Wearing your seat belt while in a car or using a helmet and protective gear when on a motorcycle are your best defenses against an impaired driver.
- If you know someone who is about to drive or ride while impaired, take their keys and help them make other arrangements to get to where they are going safely.
- Never ride with a driver who is impaired.