- Associated Press - Saturday, May 28, 2016

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) - Authorities are urging boaters to take extreme caution on the Alabama waterways during the busy Memorial Day weekend.

The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s Marine Patrol Division assistant commander Mark Fuller told the Opelika-Auburn News (http://bit.ly/1WsnA7M ) that they are urging caution to boaters because alcohol and lack of lighting are common factors in accidents and fatalities. Fuller says marine patrol officers usually work on a probable cause basis when it comes to boating under the influence.

“There are a lot of people driving under the influence, but it’s just not as easy to detect on the water versus the highway,” Fuller said.

The ALEA says there have been 15 accidents with seven fatalities on the state’s lakes and rivers so far this year. Last year, there were 25 accidents with six fatalities. In 2014, there were 73 accidents with 13 fatalities. There were 61 accidents with 10 fatalities in 2013.

Fuller said marine patrol officers usually work on a probable cause basis when it comes to boating under the influence.

Fuller said the Marine Patrol Division has fewer officers on patrol now than it did seven years ago.

“We had five people on the lake, which is a good number,” Fuller said. “We currently have one full-time officer due to budget constraints. We’re pretty much self-funded off of boat registrations and a grant from the Coast Guard.”

Fuller said accidents can be prevented with some precautions such as a designated operator, adequate lighting and life jackets.

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