Safety, DUI concerns extend from Utah roadways to lakes

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UTAH COUNTY, Utah -- The highways aren’t the only place where the state is cracking down on safety violations this holiday weekend.

On Utah Lake officers were out looking for boating violations.

"It can mean the difference between whether we are having to make an unfortunate call to a loved one and saving your life,” said Steve Garrick, Assistant Park Manager at Utah Lake State Park.

Garrick will anchor up with between 15 and 50 boats on any given day looking for an array of infractions.

In one particular case a boater left his license, registration and insurance inside the car, which are violations, but Garrick let them off with just a warning.

"We want to educate people, there are the violations we can't overlook and then there are the ones you have to understand, these are state laws," Garrick said.

One of those violations that will be cited every time is drinking and driving. Garrick said driving drunk on the lake is just as dangerous as driving drunk on the highway.

"The same impairments apply, the same reaction times apply when operating a vessel," Garrick said.

Another key issue Garrick looks for is the lack of life jackets. Under Utah law, there must be one life jacket on board for every person in the boat and all children, ages 13 and under, must be wearing their life jackets at all time.

"Search and rescue can take a long time to get to you, not because we aren't going as fast as we can, but if they are on the other side of the lake it could take us a half an hour before we get there," Garrick said.

Utah Lake State Park even provides life jackets, for free, that can be borrowed and returned at the visitor’s center.

Garrick said no matter how prepared you are, you never know what's going to happen out on the water.

"Weather rolls in real quickly, it can be sunny and blue skies and then all of a sudden you have two- to three-feet swells," Garrick said.

An afternoon Memorial Day storm was enough to send some boaters hurrying home ahead of schedule.

"Especially with the shallower lake like Utah Lake, the wind gets blowing and you get some big waves so it's probably safer just to get off the water," said boater Andrew Pettersson.

Utah Lake State Park said they are also working on a system that rewards those boaters that do meet all the proper safety requirements. They are thinking about awarding them with gift cards in the future just to show their appreciation.

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