Some good

BWI numbers drop

Half as many arrests this year compared to last

By Joyce L. Miller

LAKE OF THE OZARKS - After three years of leading the nation in boating-while-intoxicated arrests, the Missouri Water Patrol says the number of BWIs issued on Lake of the Ozarks and statewide is down.

Water Patrol officials say alcohol is involved in as many as 50 percent of all water-related fatalities and a similar percentage of injury accidents.

Patrol officers say fewer BWI arrests may mean fewer drunken drivers on the water.

So far this year, BWI arrests are running 50 percent below the same time period in 2001 and 2002.

By June 1, 2001, the Water Patrol had made 64 BWI arrests on Lake of the Ozarks, 85 statewide. In 2002 that number for the same time period dropped by one to 63 on the lake and 84 statewide. For 2003, the arrests have dropped to 33 on the lake and 46 statewide.

While the Water Patrol says a late start for the boating season due to weather may be part of the reason, boater awareness, a lack of manpower and an increase in no-wake areas are playing a role in reducing the numbers of arrests.

"The season did get off to a slow start due to the weather and that means fewer boaters and fewer stops," Water Patrol Corporal Nick Humphrey said. "But at the same time there does appear to be an increased awareness among boaters of the relationship between alcohol and boating-related accidents. BWI enforcement and education have been a priority of the Water Patrol for a number of years and we need to give credit to boaters who are paying attention to the law. There's no doubt we do see more sober drivers on Lake of the Ozarks."

The Water Patrol has also faced some manpower shortages this year which may be reducing the number of boating stops. The patrol has 15 officers on Lake of the Ozarks. In the past, the Water Patrol has had anywhere from 18 to 20 officers on the lake.

"The officers have been keeping up with calls, but when they are tied up working accidents or handling complaint calls there is no time to be out on the water patrolling," Humphrey said. "So of course manpower has an impact. Also keep in mind that we are patrolling two large no-wake areas that result in more complaint calls on the Grand Glaize Arm of the lake and at Backwater Jack's Cove at the 17-mile marker."