Before the July Fourth weekend, marine law enforcement in the Town of Hempstead announced they will be stepping up efforts to combat drunken boating.
The town's bay constables will watch waterways closely for behavior that may indicate an intoxicated driver, such as erratic movements, Town Supervisor Kate Murray said at a news conference on Hempstead Bay on Friday. The patrol staff is also equipped with digital breath analyzers to more quickly and accurately assess the condition of stopped boaters, she said.
"More and more boaters will be venturing onto our bays and waterways," she said. "It's so important for them to know that it's not only unacceptable, but it is against the law to drive a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs."
The breath analyzers came as a donation from Mothers Against Drunk Driving in 2013. Under state law, those caught operating a boat with more than 0.08 percent blood alcohol content can be subject to up to $500 in fines and 15 days in jail.
Murray said the emphasis on boating while intoxicated prevention is not in response to any recent incidents. Rather, it's a pre-emptive measure before a holiday weekend that typically brings heavy water traffic with it. The town's 12 patrolling constables will be "that much more eagle-eyed" in the coming days, she said.
"We have to remind the boaters that they're not only endangering their lives but the lives of innocent families and kids who are trying to enjoy our beautiful waterways," Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney said.
Nassau County's marine police and the Coast Guard's Jones Beach post will also be encouraging safe boating practices and monitoring the area, Petty Officer Sebastian Aguilar said.
Alcohol use was the top contributing factor in boating-related deaths nationally in 2014, according to the Coast Guard's most recent data.
Constables stopped intoxicated boaters on eight occasions in Hempstead Bay last year.
"We know there were eight because our constables were out there looking for people who might be doing the wrong thing," Murray said. "Every boater that we get off the water who is doing the wrong thing, that increases the safety and good experience for our innocent boaters."