Rise in drunk browsing increases risk, Georgia wardens warn

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AUGUSTA, Ga. — Labor Day weekend is a popular time for people to have fun, and one of the activities many enjoy is getting out on the water. Still, boating can be dangerous when alcohol is involved.

Law enforcement officials expect Labor Day weekend to be busy as usual, which means they will be on high alert for people browsing under the ‘influence.

“So this weekend is kind of like the last big nautical hoorah of the year,” said Gregory Castelli, a game warden for the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

He said the agency has seen an increase in the number of boaters under the influence.

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Castelli says, “They’re up this year from last year, about seven from last year. It’s about 30. That’s an increase for that region. We’ve never seen numbers like that in the past, and we’re certainly hoping to try to reduce that, but it’s a big problem on the lake. Impairment can cause accidents, one of the major contributing factors to boating incidents and fatal accidents.

For people who want to visit a larger lake in Georgia like Lake Lanier, TowBoatUS owner Capt. Robert Estrada expects boating activity on the lake to “triple” this Labor Day and insists on basic principles of boating safety. Estrada says it’s important to have a sober boat operator.

“We don’t have lanes on the lake like you do on the road, so they’ll go in all types of directions, and if you’re sober you’re a little more focused,” Estrada said.

Not only do you want to make sure you have a sober driver, Game Warden Castelli also wants people to make sure they have all the required safety gear.

Castelli says, “Do a pre-launch check to make sure you have all your safety gear, including your life jackets or disposable fire extinguisher. Make sure all those lights are working if you go out at night, and like I said, familiarize yourself with the water. You know some of the lakes here can be tricky at times, depending on where you are.

In Georgia, it is illegal to drive a boat if your blood alcohol level is over 0.08%. Penalties can reach $1,000.

In South Carolina

The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources will offer free boat inspections in an effort to promote safe waterways.

Inspections will take place Sept. 3, 4, and 5 at drop-offs around the state.

Officials will verify required safety equipment and proper registration. They say that instead of tickets, boaters will have the opportunity to fix any issues before launch.

Officers will also be available to answer questions and provide advice on water safety.

The full list of dates, times and locations is as follows:

Saturday

  • Darlington County – Easterling Landing, Robinson Lake; 10 a.m. to noon
  • Horry Co. – Johnny Causey; 10 a.m. to noon
  • Lexington County – Lake Murray Dam; 10 a.m. to noon
  • Pickens Co. – 12 mile boat launch; 10 a.m. to noon
  • York County – Ebenezer Park, Lake Wylie; 10 a.m. to noon

Sunday

  • Anderson Co. – River Forks boat launch, Lake Hartwell; 10 a.m. to noon
  • Beaufort Co. – Grays Hill Landing; 10 a.m. to noon
  • Charleston Co. – Buck Hall Landing; 10 a.m. to noon
  • Clarendon Co. – Alex Harvin’s Landing; 10 a.m. to noon
  • Fairfield Co.- Wateree State Park, Lake Wateree Murray; 10 a.m. to noon

Sunday

  • Charleston County – Leeds Avenue; 10 a.m. to noon
  • Darlington County – Easterling Landing, Robinson Lake; 10 a.m. to noon
  • Laurens Co. – River Fork Boat Landing; 10 a.m. to noon
  • Lexington County – Lake Murray Dam; 10 a.m. to noon
  • Oconee Co. – South Cove Park, Lake Keowee; 10 a.m. to noon
  • York Co. – Ebenezer Park, Lake Wylie, 10 a.m. to noon

SCDNR officers say browsing violations can be reported by calling 1-800-922-5431.

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