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Kentucky Fish and Wildlife joins Kentucky State Police for Fourth of July safety

Date of News Release: 07/03/2008

Frankfort, Ky. - The deadliest summer holiday of the year is coming up this weekend. The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources' Law Enforcement Division and the Kentucky State Police announced today at a joint press conference in Frankfort that they will join forces this Fourth of July holiday weekend to keep the waters and highways of Kentucky safe.

"We are proud to team up with Kentucky State Police again this Fourth of July holiday to step up our enforcement efforts and keep the weekend safe for boaters, drivers and all Kentuckians," said Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Jonathan Gassett. "By working together, our officers have a greater presence on the waters and roads of Kentucky."

The agencies have teamed for the past two summers in the Keep it a Safe Summer (K.I.S.S.) campaign, which combats boating under the influence and driving under the influence. In addition to keeping impaired boaters and drivers off Kentucky's waters and roads, officers with both agencies will enforce life jacket and seatbelt laws. They will also be on the lookout for reckless boat operation and speeding violations.

Impaired boating or driving can turn the Independence Day holiday weekend from fun to fatal. Three people died in boating accidents during last year's Fourth of July holiday, and alcohol was suspected in two of those deaths. Unfortunately, those who operate a boat under the influence often end up behind the wheel of a vehicle.

Statewide last year, police made 41,026 arrests for driving under the influence and reported 179 people died in alcohol-related wrecks. Kentucky State Police Commissioner Rodney Brewer hopes this joint effort will reduce those numbers.

"Our troopers will be working in tandem with Fish and Wildlife officers to ensure a safe Fourth of July holiday," said Brewer. "Alcohol-related fatalities are preventable and by joining forces, we intend to reduce the incidents of alcohol-related fatalities and injuries this weekend."

"We know that drunk boaters on the water often become drunk drivers on the highway," said Col. Robert Milligan, director of Kentucky Fish and Wildlife's Law Enforcement Division. "By joining forces with Kentucky State Police, we are more likely to stop impaired boaters and drivers before they become a danger to others."

Kentucky law prohibits boat operators and passengers from drinking alcohol while on the water. Yet Kentucky has more than double the national average of alcohol-related boating fatalities. The state ranks only 28th in the nation for number of registered boats, but ranks eighth for alcohol-related boating deaths.

"Nationally, alcohol-related boating fatalities have decreased from one in four to one in five," said Sgt. John Anderson, boating education coordinator for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. "Meanwhile, alcohol continues to be a contributing factor in one out of every two boating fatalities in Kentucky."

In addition to checking for intoxicated boaters, Kentucky Fish and Wildlife conservation officers will be on the lookout for reckless boat operation and other violations. They'll check to make sure all boats have required equipment on board, including life jackets.

Brian Rowland Sr. of Clark County recently lost his 15-year old son, as well as his son's best friend, when the boys drowned in an eastern Kentucky farm pond. The boys were not wearing life jackets.

"Don't take any chances that could create an accident," said Rowland. "Always have your safety equipment."

Rowland cautioned parents to supervise children who are on the water. He recommended parents buy newer models of life jackets that are more comfortable in order to encourage their children to wear them.

Kentucky Fish and Wildlife officers will be patrolling the waters to make sure all boats carry enough life jackets for each passenger. Additionally, kids under the age of 12 must wear their life jacket at all times while in the open part of a boat that is underway.

"Fish and Wildlife will have every available officer on the water throughout the entire Fourth of July holiday," said Anderson. "We will be patrolling to ensure safe operations and we will be particularly watchful for impaired boaters and reckless operators."

Kentucky Fish and Wildlife conservation officers will join Kentucky State Police troopers on enforcement details at Kentucky Lake, Barkley Lake, Rough River Lake, Herrington Lake, Dewey Lake, Cave Run Lake, Laurel Lake and Lake Cumberland.

A sound byte from Trooper Dean Patterson about 4th of July Water Safety

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