Deputies cracking down on boat safety this Fourth of July weekend

ASHLAND, Ore. — “Unsafe operation of boats is the number one thing we’re looking for, things that are going to lead to accidents,” said Sgt. Shawn Richards, Jackson County Sheriff’s Office.

Boating can be a lot of fun, but it can also be dangerous.

Sgt. Richards says every Fourth of July they see the same mistakes.

“Being too close to shore, driving too close to other boats at too high of speed, driving close to swim areas,” he said. “Things that are going to get people to end up in the water or being struck by a boat.”

Sgt. Richards says, more often than not, when boaters are driving unsafely they’re under the influence.

And that behavior puts everyone on the boat and in the lake at risk.

“Just like anybody else, as that first beer comes down, it becomes difficult to judge when you go from fine to not so fine. And that’s where we come into play,” he said.

Sgt. Richards says there were 3 boating fatalities in Jackson County last year, the most the county’s had in 12 years.

Since mid-March of this year, 5 people have died in Oregon’s waters.

“It’s stressors… the sun, the wind, all those things affect the physiological effects on your body. And water is very cold here, you end up in the water it doesn’t take very long to get hypothermic,” Sgt. Richards said.

He says wearing a life jacket, having a whistle to signal for help, and carrying a fire extinguisher on board, are some things that can be the difference between a tragedy or a great day on the lake.

“We want everybody to be able to have a good time, but we have protect that as well. And so the people that go overboard, those are the people we usually have contact with,” he said

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