Law enforcement to crack down on boaters under the influence

Published: Jul. 1, 2022 at 5:21 PM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - Many people have been planning on boarding their boats and getting out on lakes and rivers across our region over the holiday weekend, but officials have been warning to leave the alcohol on the shore.

Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) will be picking up patrols for the Fourth of July after seeing an increase in people boating under the influence (BUI) in 2022.

The Operation Dry Water effort will include officials from TWRA, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Coast Guard hitting the water all weekend to arrest anyone operating a boat while drinking.

“The truth is those few beers might mean a lot more than just a few beers to somebody’s life that you could change,” TWRA Capt. Matt Majors said. “There is no difference. Just because you are on the water doesn’t mean that you can’t be charged criminally for a boat crash. Our officers, unfortunately, have to make those reports every year.”

Majors said the message is simple – BUI is the same as DUI. Officers will be pulling over boats that are motoring across the water and pulling up to others that are anchored to monitor for impaired drivers.

The goal is to prevent a tragedy like the one that severely injured Alex Otte 13 years ago. She was just a child celebrating the holiday on a Kentucky lake with her family when a drunk boater hit her going 60 m.p.h.

The boat driver was three times the legal limit, and his boat landed on top of Otte. She had to be flown to the hospital where doctors said she had 24 hours to live.

While Otte said she is lucky to be alive, she lost one foot and broke several bones.

“Just because we think we are landlocked and we think we are in safe states and a safe area, doesn’t mean that you are safe,” Otte said. “I just want people to make the right decisions when they go out on the water and to remember that their choices do have consequences.”

Otte is now the national president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and helped launch a new campaign to make sure people know it is just as dangerous to operate a boat under the influence as it is to drive a car.

“It’s important to remember that the lake can still be fun, the jet ski in the water can still be fun as long as there isn’t someone out there making a bad choice,” Otte said.

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