Law enforcement in Luzerne County: Slow on bottle while boating

By Edward Lewis elewis@civitasmedia.com

July 1, 2014

HARVEYS LAKE — With the three-day Independence Day holiday weekend approaching, law enforcement agencies are warning about the dangers of boating and driving while under the influence of alcohol.

Harveys Lake will be one of many lakes in the region congested with vessels of all sorts, from power boats and pontoons to kayaks and jet skis.

Mixed with alcohol, those watercraft can become dangerous weapons.

“We recognize people will sometimes will include alcohol with their plans, but what they have to be aware of is they have to follow the same rules on the water as they have to follow on land,” said John Cummings, a waterway conservation officer with the state Fish & Boat Commission.

“You need to have a safe and reliable operator, someone who is not intoxicated to the point where they can’t boat safely,” he said.

Cummings was joined Tuesday by Luzerne County DUI co-coordinator Charles Rauschkolb at Harveys Lake to raise awareness about operating boats after consuming alcoholic beverages.

Authorities are planning an enforcement blitz on and off the water for the three-day July 4th holiday weekend, which Rauschkolb said is a holiday with a high number of alcohol-related crashes.

“We have a number of events planned for this weekend,” Rauschkolb said. “We’ll have DUI checkpoints and DUI roving patrols throughout the county.”

Cummings cautioned that boat operators must adhere to the speed limit on Harveys Lake.

The speed limit on weekends and holidays while operating a watercraft equipped with an engine is 45 mph.

“You’re going to have other traffic out there. Keep your head on a swivel,” Cummings said. “As an operator, you need to have 360 degrees of awareness at all times. Know what’s going on all around you and pay particular attention to the front (of boat).”

A person charged with boating while under the influence will face the same penalties as a drunken driver of a motor vehicle, Cummings said.