If you're having a cold one while out on a lake this weekend, you'd better not be at the helm.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will be stepping up enforcement against drunken boaters this weekend in a bid to cut the number of boating accidents and deaths caused by intoxication.
It says that over the past five years, 42 percent of fatal boating accidents on Minnesota's lakes and rivers were alcohol-related – including six out of the 14 fatal accidents that happened in 2014.
"We have a zero tolerance for anyone found operating a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and the state’s strict penalties for BWI make that clear," DNR officer Adam Block said. "Drunk boating is drunk driving. Boaters should be aware that a BWI on your record has the same consequences as a DWI."
"There are severe consequences for boating while intoxicated," he added. "But we'd rather arrest someone than have to tell their friends and family – or the friends and family of an innocent victim – that they're never coming home."
The crackdown – which will involve multiple law enforcement agencies across the state – ties in with a national campaign to reduce instances of drunken boating, called Operation Dry Water.
The campaign's website reveals Minnesota has more alcohol-related boating deaths than average. Across the United States, alcohol use caused 21 percent of recreational boating deaths in 2014, compared to 42 percent in Minnesota.
Anyone caught operating a boat with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or higher faces a fine of up to $1,000 for a first offense, the impounding of their boat and trailer, loss of boating privileges for 90 days, and possible jail time.
Those drunk with children on board, or who have significantly higher blood alcohol levels, face even sterner punishments.