'Fun is never an issue': Officers warn boaters of risk of driving impaired this holiday weekend

2 July 2022

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) — When the forecast calls for typically hot summer weather in central North Carolina, many people head for the nearest water source to cool off. Many waded a safe distance into Durham’s Eno River on Saturday during the annual Independence Day weekend festival.

“Enjoying the music, enjoying the river, getting to learn about the river and how important it is to our community,” said Festival for the Eno volunteer Hillary Harrison.

But when the water’s deeper and there’s alcohol involved, the risks of injury or worse are much higher.

“Because you have so much more going on,” NC Wildlife Resources Officer Jonathan Sprowl said. “The water’s always moving, there’s boats coming from all different directions. It’s not like you have the rules of the road, that cars come one way and then, another. Boats are coming in all different ways.”

Officers are patrolling popular lakes and rivers, on the lookout for impaired boat pilots and their passengers.

“They can be a distraction to the operator. When people are drinking, they may be standing up, dancing or loud and obnoxious. Take that distraction from the driver to the people on the boat, they won’t be aware of their surroundings,” Sprowl said.

He and all the officers on duty this weekend stand ready to pull over people who party so hard that they attract attention from others on the water.

“They will step into our boat, and we will do a standard field sobriety test,” said Sprowl. “If they’re under the influence of an impairing substance, in North Carolina that’s a .08 or greater, we will then place them under arrest and take them down to the Chatham County detention center.”

That’s not the way you want to spend any time this holiday weekend after what you may consider fun out on the water.

“Bottom line, don’t have too much to drink. Fun is never an issue. Too much to drink is the issue. We want people to have fun that’s safe,” Sprowl said. “Be responsible.”

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