- Associated Press - Friday, June 24, 2016

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Authorities are stepping up patrols of Ohio waterways in an effort to reduce alcohol- and drug-related accidents and deaths while boating.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources is taking part in the national Operation Dry Water campaign running this Friday through Sunday by increasing patrols, checkpoints and breath-alcohol tests on waterways across the state, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

Officials hope to draw more awareness to the importance of staying sober while operating watercraft, the department said in a statement.

Stressors for boaters, including the effects of the sun, wind and water motion, can be multiplied when alcohol is consumed, ODNR supervisor Jeff Baker told The Columbus Dispatch.

“On the highway, you have traffic lanes, signals, directional things that dictate the way vehicles are moving,” Baker said. “On the water, it’s 360 degrees of danger.”

U.S. Coast Guard statistics show alcohol use was the primary contributing factor in 260 recreational-boating accidents, 91 deaths and 228 injuries across the country last year. It was a contributing factor in 20 recreational-boating deaths in Ohio the past five years, including four deaths in 2015.

Boaters whose blood-alcohol level exceeds Ohio’s limit of .08 percent can face jail and fines, among other penalties.

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