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IDNR Suggest 4th Of July Boaters Should Be Wary Of Alcohol, Pack Proper Safety Gear

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As the Fourth of July weekend approaches, families across Illinois may be inclined to take their boats out on the water. 

Boating safety is overseen by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, which employs conservation officers in each county to conduct safety compliance checks.  Contrary to what one may expect, it is legal to drink alcoholic beverages while riding in or even operating a boat.  But Captain Laura Petreikis  says the most common accidents involve drunken operators, and it can be difficult to gauge intoxication. 

“Your level of intoxication is going to be more rapid than what it might be on land because you have the wind and the waves and the sun working against you, which will increase your impairment,” she says. 

In addition to avoiding excessive amounts of alcohol, Petreikis says all passengers should be equipped with appropriately sized flotation devices -- life jackets -- in good condition.  Children under 13 are required to wear them. 

“It’ll be very difficult for them to swim if they’re wearing something that’s too big.  We also see adults that wear life jackets that are too small for them.  They put them on, they don’t zip them.  They don’t fasten them.  That’s not going to save them either because they’re likely to come out of it if they go out of the boat,” she says.   

If something does happen, such as a boat hitting a submerged object, DNR recommends calling the Illinois State Police, who can patch boaters through to their local conservation officer.  Contact information for these individuals can be found here