Marine police urge boater awareness during holiday weekend

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CULLMAN, Ala. – Hopping on a boat with family or friends is exactly what some would consider a nearly perfect day, but just because the driver has a vessel license, doesn’t mean all should feel carefree.

“One day of fun is not worth someone’s life,” Alabama Marine Police Trooper Kyle Stephenson said.

Stephenson said the Marine Police have upped their numbers of boots on the ground and boats in the water, as the lake can have up to 50% more traffic than a normal weekend.

“It can get pretty stressful at times and definitely a little but overwhelming,” he said.

Stephenson said marine troopers can only be so many places at once, so it’s crucial for boaters and others on the water to follow the law or risk facing the consequences.

There are no exceptions to consequences. Just this weekend, Scottsboro’s interm police chief, Ron Latimer, was charged with operating a vessel under the influence in Marshall County.

Trooper Stephenson patrols Smith Lake, which has even more stringent alcohol policies.

“Smith Lake is dry, you can’t possess alcohol out here on a boat, however we still see that a lot of people tend to bring alcohol out here either knowingly or unknowingly. That’s one of our biggest issues,” he said.

Lake Guntersville and the Tennessee River are a little but more complicated. the law varies depending on your location in the water, whether you’re in city or county limits determines if passengers can have alcohol on the boat.

If a driver does get breathalized, just like in a car, they must blow below .08 blood alcohol content to keep themselves out of trouble.

That’s not the only similarity between water and road laws:

“Driving on the wrong side of the water, that’s something a lot of people tend not to know or haven’t done their research on it, something to that effect. In reality you’re supposed to stay on the right side of mid channel,” Stephenson said.

In addition to a hefty fine, according to Stephenson, usually twice that of a normal traffic ticket, there are even bigger consequences.

“All of our violations out here, regardless of what it is, if you get wrote one of those tickets it’s actually a misdemeanor on your record as well,” he said.

The most simple thing, Stephenson says, for boaters to do is constantly check their surroundings, especially with swimmers in the water.

“At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if the boater was in the wrong or the swimmer was in the wrong, if someone dies, it doesn’t matter, someone still died either way.”

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