Boaters are drawn to the inviting water of South Dakota lakes on a hot Fourth of July. But add alcohol to the mix and a holiday on the lake can turn tragic. The safety strategy of a designated operator, much like a designated driver, is gaining steam among boaters on Wall Lake.
Nothing keeps Fourth of July festivities afloat quite like a boating outing on Wall Lake.
"It's good to be out and away from town, with friends and spend some time in the water, get out here early before it gets too windy," Wall Lake boater Paul Boerboom said.
Boater Paul Boerboom steers clear of alcohol while he's at the helm.
"We just do our boating first and then if we want to enjoy a beverage later that's how we do it, especially if you're driving the boat," Boerboom said.
One of Boerboom's passengers is an off-duty Minnesota police officer who stresses the importance of staying safe in a boat.
"Always make sure you have enough life jackets for those that are in the boat," boat passenger Jesse Mettner said. "If you are going to choose to have an adult beverage, then make sure that you've got somebody designated that's going to withhold themselves from that as your designated boater."
The threshold for drunken boating is the same as drunken driving: A blood-alcohol level of .08 percent. And drinking alcohol can quickly catch up with a boater during a hot day on the lake.
"I do know that being in the sun and being active and things like that can make you feel the effects perhaps more so if you were not in the sun and not active," Mettner said.
Traffic flows on Wall Lake rely upon boaters being responsible about alcohol on board.
"And the laws on the lake are to travel counter-clockwise that helps control the traffic and less chance of having a collision with anybody," Boerboom said.
One of the busiest weekends of the summer for boating can be one of the safest as well, as long as drinking doesn't go overboard.
According to South Dakota boating laws, if you're operating a boat in the water, you've automatically given consent to law enforcement to alcohol or drug testing.