NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The cost of boating under the influence is no less dangerous than driving under the influence.
Every year people die in boating accidents on Tennessee waterways and The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) says alcohol is the main contributing factor.
On Monday, the TWRA reported they made at least six BUI (boating under influence) arrests since Friday. The increased patrols are part of “Operation Dry Water,” a holiday weekend full of education and enforcement on the dangers of impaired boating.
But the July 4th weekend is also the anniversary of a Kentucky woman’s near-fatal encounter with a drunk boater.
Twelve years ago, Alex Otte was spending the holiday on a lake in Kentucky with her family.
“I was 13 years old. I was sitting still on a jet ski behind my dad’s house on Lake Herrington in Danville, Kentucky. I’d been on the water for years. Had my boating license for years so it was nothing out of the ordinary,” Otte said.
Everything was fine until Otte spotted a 17-foot bass boat, operated by a drunk driver, come speeding towards her.
“The boat hit me from the side going over 60 miles per hour, threw me off the jet ski, went up over the jet ski. I landed face down on the water and the boat landed on top of my body,” Otte said.
The accident landed her in the hospital with a traumatic brain injury, shattered jaw, broken neck, broken collar bone, lacerated liver, and an amputated leg.
Victims like Otte are just part of why TWRA partnered with the U.S. Coast Guard, National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, and Mothers Against Drunk Driving this holiday weekend to draw public attention to the dangers of boating under the influence.
TWRA officers are patroling places like Percy Priest Lake in Nashville to make sure all vessels have designated drivers, life jackets, and appropriate rates of speed.
“We want boating to be fun this weekend and all summer long. But we want people to have fun in a way that we make sure we all get to go home at night. And we all get to go home in one piece. Because I didn’t,” Otte said.
Since her accident, Otte has made a strong recovery but still will live with some injuries for the rest of her life. Last year she was named the National President of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.