US Coast Guard, police on the prowl for drunken and drugged boaters

Local Coast Guard units are preparing for a busy weekend on the water

US Coast Guard, police on the prowl for drunken and drugged boaters

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Fourth of July, MLB All-Star Week, and Tall Ships of America are coming.

It’s set to be a busy early July on the waters in Northeast Ohio and members of the coast guard are preparing for big crowds.

“You may notice a larger presence or more patrols leading up to the All-Star Game and home run derby," explained U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Brian McCrum.

Operation Dry Water, law enforcement’s effort to keep drunk boaters off the waterways, will launch over Fourth of July weekend.

During this time last year across the nation, there were more than 7,300 citations given and nearly 500 BUI arrests.

In Ohio, nearly 200 officers participated in last years ODW weekend, handing out more than 160 citations, and arresting 13 people for alcohol and two for drug violations. They also gave 1,030 boats safety warnings.

This year, in addition to drunken and drugged boaters, law enforcement will also be looking to make sure you’re wearing a life jacket.

“Coast Guard requires one life jacket per person on any vessel. We recommend you wear it at all times. It’s just like a seat belt. You can’t be reaching for it at the last moment," McCrum said.

Paddle-craft activities like canoes, kayaks, and stand up paddle boards are becoming more popular in the downtown area. McCrum said those can be especially dangerous if you’ve been drinking.

“If there is alcohol involved, that impedes your judgement, vision. Add that to the motion and dizziness on the boat and the sun, you can really start to see a lot of those effects start to add up and it can be very dangerous," explained McCrum.

So far this year, there have been at least four drownings in the Northeast Ohio area of Lake Erie. McCrum said cold water temperatures make the chances of accidental drownings even higher and the water is still unseasonably cold.

Ohio does have strict laws about boating licenses when on the water. If you have questions, you can contact your local coast guard office.

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