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Stay sober, keep waterways safe while boating this summer

Now that summer is here and the boating season in Oregon is under way, the Oregon State Marine Board (OSMB) encourages those headed to the water for fun to stay sober.

'It's this simple: Boaters should refrain from consuming alcohol while on Oregon's waterways,' said Ashley Massey, OSMB public affairs specialist. 'Every year, a fun day on the water turns tragic because of alcohol.'

According to OSMB statistics, 50 percent of boating accidents and one-third of boating fatalities in Oregon each year are alcohol related.

One alcoholic beverage on the water is roughly equal to three on land, according to recent studies by the U.S. Coast Guard's Office of Boating Safety. Alcohol consumption affects balance, vision, coordination and judgement. Environmental factors that come with boating - such as wind, sun, noise and motion - can accelerate and magnify the impairment.

In Oregon, a boater is considered legally 'under the influence' with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher. Plus, marine officers can still arrest boaters for impairment below 0.08 percent. An impaired boat operator who is arrested for Boating Under the Influence of Intoxicants (BUII) in Oregon faces fines of up to $6,250 and/or up to one year in jail, loss of boat operation privileges for a period of time and suspension of boat registration for up to three years.

To avoid receiving a BUII citation and to prevent boating accidents and fatalities, the Marine Board offers these tips:

n Leave alcohol at home or on the shore.

n If you are feeling fatigued, take a break on land and return to the water when you are reenergized and alert.

n If you dock somewhere to eat and choose to drink alcohol with your meal, wait a minimum of one hour for each drink consumed before operating your watercraft.

n Operators and passengers should wear properly fitting personal floatation devices (life jackets).

n Take a boating safety course. In Oregon, boaters 50 years of age and younger must carry a boater education card when operating a powerboat greater than ten horsepower.

For more information on safe boating in Oregon, contact OSMB public affairs specialist Ashley Massey at 503-378-2623 or visit the Web site at www.BoatOregon.com.