TWRA Prepares for Drunk Boaters

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Lake Cherokee (WVLT) - We're just a few weeks away from one of the biggest boating holidays of the year, Memorial Day Weekend.

So, to get ready for busy waters, the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency held boating under the influence training Friday, with people actually under the influence.

TWRA officers say they're rusty on boat safety after a long winter and need to get ready for the busy months ahead.

Training Friday gave them hands on experience, so they know how to spot a reckless boater.

We've launched into boat season, so TWRA officers are out keeping the waters safe.

During routine safety stops, officers check for things like life jackets, fire extinguishers and boat registrations.

Tommy Quarles follows the rules, and hopes others will use common courtesy. "We've got 3 or 4 people at home, depending on us for our livelihood, we work hard, we come out on the weekends to enjoy ourselves and we don't want to hurt anybody or get hurt."

But with each stop, officers are also looking for reckless boaters.

"During developments of conversation you might smell strong alcohol odor coming from them, they may be unsteady on their feet, you just look for different clues,” says TWRA Officer Nathan Ripley.

To know what clues to look for, each year officers undergo b-u-i training on land.

"We test people that are, have been drinking so they can get some hands on experience with real drinkers,” says TWRA Assistant Supervisor Andy Collins.

Volunteers with blood alcohol levels between .08 and .12 perform field sobriety tests by following a pen with their eyes, standing on one leg, and counting fingers.

"We have to do what we call float tasks and shore tasks and some of our float tasks are simple divided attention tasks that we have to do on the boat,” Collins says.

And Quarles says anything to help him get back to shore safely, is a good thing. "The main thing is getting back to the bank the same we left, in one piece, safe."

Although you are allowed to have alcohol on your boat, the driver cannot be under the influence, the legal limit is the same as driving a car, .08.

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