Authorities cracking down on drinking behind wheel of cars, boats this July 4

July 4, 2013 2:37:02 PM PDT
Law enforcement officers are not only cracking down on drunk drivers this July 4 holiday. They're hitting the water, looking for people who are drinking and boating. The combination of alcohol on the water can be deadly.

Police are patrolling Lake Houston and they're partnering with the Harris County District Attorney's Office to make quick arrests.

If you're planning on boating this holiday weekend, expect authorities to pull you over for a routine check. By midday Thursday, police had already checked more than 50 boats out on Lake Houston alone.

Houston police are pulling over hundreds of boaters, checking for alcohol, safety horns and life jackets.

"You can drown in the water and stuff. If you don't have a life vest and you fall out of the boat or something, then it's going to happen," boater Gracie Thomas said.

This boat and most others here on Lake Houston easily aced the test.

Houston police are increasing patrols at local lakes and rivers for July 4 and into the holiday weekend. On Thursday, they plant to stay out until 10pm.

"We've gone almost two years without a drowning out here, and I think a big key to that happening is us being out here and being present," said Alvin Steelman with the Houston Police Department Marine Unit.

But it can be difficult to enforce alcohol laws on the water because you're allowed to drink while boating.

"They can actually have the open container but until it's .08, which is same as in a vehicle, they're not intoxicated," Steelman said.

Those suspected of drunk boating are usually taken close to an hour away to be processed. But this holiday weekend, Harris County prosecutors will be doing tests and writing warrants right on shore. Hopefully, it serves as a deterrent to those planning on boating while intoxicated.

"You have the boat that's constantly rocking. That along with the intoxication and dehydration, it can make it very dangerous real quick," Steelman said.

The penalties for boating while intoxicated are the same as driving while intoxicated. That means you could expect to pay heavy fines and serve jail time.

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