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Boat operators on Minnetonka can now get in trouble if underage drinkers are onboard

If people under 21 are drinking on your boat, you could get a ticket.

There are some new rules on Lake Minnetonka to try to stop curb drinking.

Starting Friday, the people who own or operate a boat could be held responsible if someone under the age of 21 is caught drinking on it, the ordinance passed by the Lake Minnetonka Conservation District says.

The boat owner or operator could face a misdemeanor if they knowingly allow or provide for underage drinking. The ordinance also goes for the owners of ice fishing houses in winter months.

These new rules are much like social host ordinances that many cities have enacted. Those hold homeowners responsible if they knowingly provide a place for under-21s to drink.

Drinking on Lake Minnetonka

Lake Minnetonka is a popular place to party, and frequently gets the highest number of BWI arrests in Minnesota every year.

That's why the Lake Minnetonka Conservation District and the Water Patrol Unit for the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office have been working together to make the lake safer. That includes cracking down on underage drinking, a news release says.

On July 4, there were five medical responses on Lake Minnetonka – four of them were related to underage drinking, the conservation district says.

The Star Tribune says over the July 4th holiday weekend, the sheriff's office issued 45 minor consumption tickets.

Alcohol is a main factor in many boating deaths

Booze is the leading known contributing factor in recreational boating deaths and is one of the most common factors in boating accidents nationally, U.S. Coast Guard statistics show.

Last year, the boat driver being drunk led to 282 boating accidents, 87 deaths and 264 injuries nationwide, the Coast Guard says.

In Minnesota, alcohol was a factor in nine of the 17 fatal boating accidents (that’s 53 percent) in 2016, according to the DNR.

But it's not just the boat driver being drunk that's dangerous. Drinking while on a boat can actually make you feel drunker, which can affect passengers' coordination and make them more likely to fall into the water, Dr. Jeahan Collettie, an emergency medicine expert at the Mayo Clinic, told GoMN.

Collettie also said swimming while drunk is dangerous because you can get more disoriented, which can lead to drowning.

For more information on the dangers of boating while drunk, click here. The Minnesota DNR also has tips to stay safe when you’re on the water.

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