Do You Have A Designated Operator?

Published in the May 2011 Issue Published online: May 07, 2011 Ask The Expert Brady L. Kay

So what do we need-more threats, increased sobriety checkpoints, how about more coverage of deaths that occurred because of drunk boaters? Actually what we need to do is follow the example of the Lake Havasu City Marine Association.

Instead of putting together a scare campaign that threatens jail time, I love what is being done on the Colorado River. Lake Havasu City, Ariz., is one of the country's premier freshwater boating destinations and the executive director of the Lake Havasu organization wants to keep it that way.

Jim Salscheider is confronting this problem head-on with a new voluntary "Carry A Designated Operator" campaign. Designed to create awareness and get boaters thinking about being more responsible on the water, the Lake Havasu Marine Association-along with sponsors Romer Beverage and Teague Custom Marine-is hoping the campaign will reduce OUT (operating under the influence) offenses.

But instead of scaring, Salscheider is taking a different approach-recognition and reward. Local businesses on the water like Pirates Cove and The Naked Turtle are providing free non-alcoholic beverages to designated operators.

Strategically placed billboards at launch ramps, shore lines and other restaurants and bars accessible by water are helping spread the message. The designated driver is given a wristband that lets everyone know he is not drinking and is responsible for the safety of those in his group.

Boat and PWC rental companies will require Designated Operators to be identified by wristbands, and renters will sign a statement agreeing to forfeiture their deposits-often as much as $1,000-if cited.

"We're determined to significantly reduce the number of intoxicated boaters on Lake Havasu," says Salscheider. "All we're asking is that every boat designate one person to be responsible for operating the boat on that day who is not going to consume an alcoholic beverage or ingest a controlled substance while on the water."

You can't purchase these wristbands, but by doing the right thing you can get one from those supporting the program. Now being responsible and getting everyone back to the dock safely at the end of the day comes with a little perk-a free Coke.

But the "Carry A Designated Operator" campaign doesn't need to be limited to just Lake Havasu. This reward and recognition concept is in place for all lakes to adopt and grow nationwide. There is no limit on how far this campaign can reach and that's why I personally support it. Yeah, I doubt I'll get a free non-alcoholic drink just for flashing my wristband or badge promoting this campaign in other states, but that's just fine for me. Knowing that I'm taking the responsibility for those on my boat is all the recognition that I need. For more information visit www.lhcma.com.

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