LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW) – Boat patrols have been out on the water in full force Labor Day weekend, keeping an eye out for drunken boaters and other people who might not be following the rules.
"We're looking for anything that catches the eye, anything out of the ordinary. Generally speaking, a lot of times people draw attention to themselves," said Deputy Sheriff Rich Amundsen, with the La Crosse Sheriff's Department.
This can be anything from not displaying registration numbers to drunken boating, Amundsen said.
Something he and his partner, Patrol Sgt. Brandon Penzkover, haven't seen much of Labor Day weekend.
"The boaters that I've run across this weekend, yes some of them have been consuming alcohol, but none of them have been impaired or unable to operate the motorboat safely," Amundsen said. "So that's a good thing."
A person cannot drive a boat if his or her blood alcohol level is above .08 – same with driving.
So far this year, the Sheriff's Department said they've only arrested two people for boating while intoxicated, compared to 2011 when they arrested six people.
Penzkover attributes the dip partially to the weather, partially to compliance.
"People know that we're out here," he said. "They're starting to be more mindful of what they're doing."
Labor Day weekend does not have quite as much water traffic as Fourth of July weekend. But it comes pretty close, Amundsen said.
It keeps the boat patrol busy.
Amundsen and Penzkover pulled over a boater for violating a Slow No Wake Zone.
They explained to the driver that in the zone, he needs to drive at a speed that he can keep steering control of his boat, without creating a wake.
While the boater was pulled over, Amundsen also checked for personal flotation devices.
According to Amundsen, one of the biggest violations he sees is boaters not having enough life jackets on board.
Each boat needs a wearable life jacket, Amundsen said.
If the boat is more than 16 feet, there needs to be a throwable flotation device as well, he added.
Amundsen only issued the boaters a written warning.
"Sometimes that written warning, that contact and doing a little bit of education is really all it takes," he said.
With that education, the Sheriff's Department hopes boaters become an example for one another.
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