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County officials warn boaters to avoid drinking as holiday weekend approaches

Suffolk County officials warned boaters ahead of the holiday weekend that Marine Bureau officers will be “out in force” to strictly enforce laws against boating while intoxicated.

At a Tuesday press conference, Suffolk County Police Acting Commissioner Stuart Cameron expressed concern about the “proliferation of boat sales” during the pandemic, compounding the influx of vessels on the water this weekend and the possibility of accidents.

“Every year there are tragedies that I believe could be prevented,” he said. “A common factor amongst all these tragedies is poor decision making. Something that absolutely contributes to poor decision making is the consumption of alcohol.”

Anyone driving a boat or other vehicle while intoxicated will be arrested, he said, adding that the leading factors in boating accidents are alcohol consumption, intoxication, operator inattention, poor training or no training at all.

“My office will hold you accountable if you make those poor decisions and you put other people’s lives and your own at risk,” District Attorney Timothy Sini said at the press conference.  

Brianna’s Law, which went into effect in New York last year, requires all motorized-boat operators in the state to complete a state-approved eight-hour training course by 2025.

“But even though you may not be legally required to take the training now because of your age, if you’re going to operate a vessel and you’re new to the sport, I strongly encourage you to take the training as soon as possible,” Mr. Cameron said.

He also emphasized the importance of keeping fire extinguishers and properly sized personal floatation devices on board. Children under 12 and anyone who isn’t a strong swimmer should keep one on, he said. Boaters should also keep cell phones and a marine radio on board in case of emergency and be aware of the weather before they go out.

“I also encourage people that go out on the water to have a float plan,” Mr. Cameron added. “In other words, tell somebody what your plans are for the day. Tell them where you’re going. Tell them when you expect to return. So if something happens to you, you’ll have people that will notify that you didn’t return as expected.”

Mr. Sini’s office is working with Gina Lieneck — who worked to pass Brianna’s Law after her 11-year-old daughter was killed in a 2005 boating accident — and “other folks who have experienced tragedy on the water” to further tighten legislation. They aim to add a provision that increases penalties for intoxicated individuals who operate boats with children on board.

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