Penalties stiffen for drunken boating in Arizona

PHOENIX – Starting next year, Arizona boaters caught operating their craft while drunk will be treated like first-time drunken drivers and will face a mandatory 10-day jail sentence, the Arizona Republic reported in a story on its Web site today.

The Governor's Office of Highway Safety and the state Game and Fish Department are teaming up as part of a nationwide Labor Day campaign through Sept. 1, called "Drunk Driving. Over the Limit. Under Arrest."

The campaign dovetails law enforcement agencies' annual efforts to curb crashes and related injuries and deaths associated with boating and driving while impaired. Arizona lawmakers this year passed legislation stiffening the penalties of operating under the influence laws to match DUI penalties.

In 2006, the most recent year statistics are available, four of the 14 fatalities on Arizona waterways and 12 of the 261 injury accidents were alcohol-related, authorities said.

"People need to understand that it's no different whether it's a boat or a car," Teresa Guillen, a spokeswoman for the Game and Fish Department, told the newspaper. "The dangers are still there, and so, therefore, the penalty should be the same."

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