More people will die in alcohol-related boating accidents on July 4 than on any other day of the year, according to the Boat Owners Association of the United States, the nation's largest recreational boaters group.
There could be as many as 60 deaths on the nation's waterways this holiday weekend, and alcohol is expected to be a factor in almost half.
Boaters are advised to appoint a "designated skipper" to abstain and keep an eye on passengers.
Boating while intoxicated is not only dangerous _ it is illegal. Under federal law, boat operators with a blood-alcohol content of 0.10 percent are considered intoxicated. Violators face a civil penalty of up to $1,000 or a criminal fine up to $5,000 and a year in jail.
In Florida waters, a person operating a boat is considered intoxicated if he or she has a BAC of 0.08 percent.
"We handle it the same way as if you were driving a car," said Capt. Mike Tucker of the Florida Marine Patrol. "We give the same tests, and if you are found to have an unlawful blood-alcohol content, a judge can restrict their boating activity."
_ TERRY TOMALIN