Marine patrol staying busy during Fourth of July holiday - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

Marine patrol staying busy during Fourth of July holiday

LEXINGTON COUNTY, SC (WIS) -

It's tough to find a better way to spend Independence Day than enjoying the freedom of high speeds and open water.

But that liberating feeling of celebrating the nation's birthday can come to a screeching halt if you aren't staying safe on the lake.

"Sometimes we see the signs of BUIs, you know slurred speech or maybe, you know, delayed speech," said Deputy Derek Wilson with the Richland County Sheriff's Department Marine Patrol.

Wilson and others perform what they call compliance checks when they stop boaters.

"We are making sure all the vessels have a proper amount of life vests, making sure that their navigation lights are working," Wilson said.

For every person in the boat, you've got to have a life vest that fits because when you go the equivalent of 30 miles an hour out the water, it's not like being on a flat road.

It's one reason deputies say the risk of boating under the influence is so dangerous.

One DNR officer tells WIS they'll be especially alert at night when many of the dockside bars begin to close down.

"One beer in these elements, when it's a hundred and something degrees, one beer, two beers is equivalent to three or four beers when you're in the elements," Wilson said.

So tonight, after the fireworks, and the firewater, there'll be blue lights on the lake.

"One death on Lake Murray is one too many," Wilson said.

Sheriff's deputies say many people won't even realize their lights are out or they don't have proper safety equipment on their boat.

Deputy Wilson says they usually carry extra light sticks and boater safety manuals for each check.

Copyright 2014 WIS. All rights reserved.

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