Bearing Down on Boozing and Boating
Officers ticketed 476 people for boating while intoxicated last year, including 332 on the Lake of the Ozarks. That's why one out of every five officers is focused at the lake.
"We're very proactive as far as trying to detect alcohol-impaired operators on the boats," said the patrol's Ralph Bledsoe, "so our officers are specially trained to be looking for that type of activity."
However, officers need a specific cause to stop a boat. So, they look for speeding, driving without lights at night or people sitting outside railings while boats are moving.
The State Water Patrol also will push for tougher laws in the next legislative session because Missouri has different legal standards for drunk drivers on land and drunk drivers on water. For example, boat operators can have open containers of alcohol on board as long as they are not legally drunk. The minimum blood-alcohol content to be legally drunk while operating a boat is still .10, although lawmakers have lowered the minimum BAC for drunk drivers on the road to .08.