Labor Day weekend means more patrols on the water

Almost every holiday, we hear about the dangers of drinking and driving and how there are stepped up patrols and safety checkpoints.

But there are strict laws about driving a boat while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

And both the Illinois Conservation Police and the Missouri Water Patrol say they're gearing up for the Labor Day holiday weekend.

The Illinois Conservation Police do a little bit of everything when it comes to enforcing laws on waterways in the state. They help with searches on the water, they inspect boats when needed and they enforce laws when it comes to boaters who drive their vessel while under the influence. And with the Labor Day weekend coming up, Sergeant Mark Wagner, who's been with the Illinois Conservation Police for the last 21 years, knows his officers will be working overtime and that means the parties and boating will also start earlier as well.

"The more metropolitan areas may start as early as Thursday. More people starting to boat on the river down around the St. Louis area that's typically start around Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. In some of the the more smaller communities, it's main focus is on Saturday and Sunday," said Wagner.

He also said a majority of boat owners realize what the law entails when it comes to drinking and getting behind the wheel of a boat. It's basically the same laws apply for those who operate a boat under the influence and those who get behind the wheel of a car and drive down a highway. He says though, most boat owners have a sense of responsibility once they put their boat in the water.

"Most people, they're not first time boat owners. They've operated a boat. They've had some experience behind the wheel. They know how to operate a boat. It's just, when you're under the influence of alcohol, it impairs your judgment at little bit and they don't take that into consideration when they're trying to stop," said Wagner.

If you're caught, you face the same penalties as a D-U-I. A fine of up to $2,500 and a year in jail. If you're caught a second time it's considered a felony and prison time is an option.