The Minnesota Department of Public Safety has said for years that the Fourth of July is the deadliest day of the year on the roads. It would make more sense for St. Patrick’s Day to hold the dubious honor, but there is something about the Fourth of July that increases the risks to motorists. An abundance of inexperienced teen drivers, family get-togethers with grilling and plenty of craft beer, people fatigued from sun exposure — it all adds up to a busy couple of days for police and emergency room doctors.
In many states, local and state police work together on anti-drunk driving campaigns over the Fourth. The programs center on sobriety checkpoints and stepped up street-level enforcement. Minnesota takes a different approach.
Sobriety checkpoints are unconstitutional in the North Star State. However, it is not unconstitutional for state or local police to increase their presence on the roads. Or, for that matter, on lakes and rivers.
According to the Department of Natural Resources, Minnesota has more boats per capita (a 1 to 6 ratio) than any other state. The state takes drunk boating very seriously, and over the Fourth law enforcement will likely be out in force among the holiday revelers.
On land and on water, officers will be keeping an eye out for even small violations that may indicate the driver is impaired. On the road, for example, a seatbelt infraction could get you stopped. Remember, everyone in the car, regardless of where they are sitting, must be wearing a seatbelt; children must be in appropriate car seats.
On the water, officers will be especially aware of life belt use. According to the DNR, all children under 10 years old must wear a life jacket while the boat is underway. While passengers need not wear their life jackets, every passenger (including the driver) should have ready access to one.
As for alcohol use, make no mistake: Boating while impaired is just as serious an offense as driving while impaired. The legal limit for both is a 0.08 percent blood alcohol concentration. Both carry penalties for refusing a BAC test, and both may result in jail time. And, like a DWI conviction, a BWI conviction could not only mean a suspended boating license, but BWI violations go on the offender’s driving record.
Be especially careful over the holiday weekend. If you find yourself in police custody, consider calling a defense attorney before you do anything else.
Source: Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, “Minnesota Boating Guide 2015,” accessed online June 26, 2015