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With Tougher Law, Lake Patrols Take Aim At Impaired Boaters

A CMPD police boat at McDowell Nature Preserve landing. CMPD and other agencies will be out on area lakes this Memorial Day weekend.
David Boraks
/
WFAE
A CMPD police boat at McDowell Nature Preserve landing. CMPD and other agencies will be out on area lakes this Memorial Day weekend.

Boating season gets into full swing this holiday weekend on North Carolina's lakes and waterways. Public safety officials will be out enforcing the rules, including a new state law that stiffens penalties for boating while impaired.

CMPD Lake Wylie patrol officer Stanley Joye.
Credit David Boraks / WFAE-FM
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WFAE-FM
CMPD Lake Wylie patrol officer Stanley Joye.

This Memorial Day will be the first under Sheyenne's Law, which took effect last Dec. 1. The new law makes it a felony - instead of a misdemeanor – to kill or seriously injure someone with a boat while under the influence. It’s named for Sheyenne Marshall, a Concord teenager killed by a drunken boater on Lake Norman July Fourth weekend 2015.

Charlotte Mecklenburg police officer Stanley Joye says CMPD, the Coast Guard and other agencies will have as many as 12 boats on Lake Wylie this weekend - double the usual number.  

“We're going to concentrate on boating while impaireds, which is the same, very similar to driving while impaired,” he says.

As with a car, it's illegal to operate a boat if your blood alcohol measures 0.08.

CMPD saw an uptick in impaired boating charges on Lake Wylie last year, before the law took effect. Sixteen citations were issued in 2016, compared with just five in 2015.

But Joye says there's also a positive trend - more designated drivers.

CMPD also will be checking safety equipment.

“We had seven drownings on Lake Wylie each of last two years …two and then three here in Mecklenburg County ...  and all of 'em could've been prevented with a life jacket,” Joye says.  

Boats must have properly sized life jackets for every passenger and a working fire extinguisher.

Watch for similar patrols on Lake Norman, by Cornelius police and state agencies.

RELATED LINKS

Sheyenne's Law, passed in 2016, at NCLeg.net

July 24, 2015, The Charlotte Observer, "Officer: Boater in fatal Lake Norman wreck had 0.14 blood-alcohol content"