The U.S. Coast Guard issued a stern warning Tuesday to boaters who drink
while operating a vessel on the Great Lakes, saying that was the leading cause
for fatalities last year.
According to the Coast Guard Office of Auxiliary and Boating Safety's recreational statistics, alcohol was a factor in 17 percent of all boating deaths in 2012 throughout the Great Lakes.
Data also shows that more than half of those found to be intoxicated while operating a boat in cases of fatal accidents either capsized their vessel or fell overboard. Overall, the report found, alcohol use is more hazardous on water than land, with spray, engine noise, sun and wind all factoring in to added dangers.
"When mariners boat under the influence it puts all those around them at significant risk," said Capt. Stephen Torpey, chief of response for the Guard's District Nine. "We want mariners to enjoy our nation's waterways but to do it safely and responsibly. The Coast Guard will continue to work closely with federal, state and local partners to ensure the safety of those on the water."
Several tickets were issued across Lake Erie over Memorial Day weekend for civil or criminal offenses for operating vessels under the influence of drugs or alcohol, though their names were not released. Penalties for the alleged crimes could include fines, suspension or revocation of an operator's license and jail time.
The issue could also be dealt with internally, on the federal level, or handed over to state or local authorities.
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