Game Department Encourages Boater Safety

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It's heating up, water levels on Arizona lakes are the highest they've been in a decade, and boaters are out in full force. The Arizona Game and Fish Department reminds all boaters to take necessary precautions to ensure a safe and enjoyable outing on the water.

These measures include making sure all life jackets on a vessel are in good working order, free of holes and frays, and fit all the intended wearers on board.

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A pontoon boat negotiates the rapidly rising waters at Roosevelt Lake. With the lake almost filled to capacity due to winter and spring rains, hordes of boaters are flocking to Roosevelt each week.

"The last thing you need when you've had a boating accident is to find out your life jacket is crumbling and useless," says Arizona's Boating Law Administrator Kevin Bergersen.

In 2003 there were more than 700 boating deaths nationwide; seven were in Arizona. "Approximately 450 of those people could have been saved had they been wearing a life jacket," said Bergersen.

Safety tips boaters should know include making sure a boat's motor and propulsion system are in good working order, knowing weight limits to avoid overloading, making sure fire extinguishers work, putting plugs back in after winter storage, and avoiding alcohol while operating a boat.

In an effort to detect and remove impaired or drunk boat operators, the Arizona Game and Fish Department will conduct operating under the influence (OUI) checkpoints all summer on different waterways throughout the state. The department employs two tactics to search for impaired boaters: the OUI checkpoint and the wolf pack patrol.

"Officers will set up a stationary OUI checkpoint and everyone moving through it will be screened. Those who appear impaired will be tested for blood alcohol content. A wolf pack is when officers are moving on the water and searching for impaired drivers. Both are effective tools for cracking down on drunk or impaired boaters," says Bergersen.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department has scheduled 11 OUI checkpoints and wolf pack patrols this summer on waterways throughout the state, including Saguaro Lake, Canyon Lake, and Lake Pleasant.

Boaters interested in more safety tips can take an Arizona Game and Fish Department boating safety class.

For more information call (602) 789-3235 or visit www.azgfd.gov/boating.

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