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Avoid Mixing Alcohol With State's Summer
By Rhonda Whitmire
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Before getting out in Mississippi's heat, consider the consequences of mixing alcohol with summer outings.
If summer plans include any time on the state's lakes and rivers, boaters need to be aware of the regulations and the penalties concerning Boating Under the Influence.
The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks will continue to enforce alcohol regulations that went into effect in 1996.
"With the passing of the Alcohol Boating Safety Act in 1995, fatalities and accidents have gone down," said Liz Raymond of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.
"We don't stop people just because they have alcohol in the boat or have a beer when they are at the dock," Raymond said. "We stop people for erratic or reckless behavior."
This bill gave the department the power to enforce the regulations once an arrest has been made. The department is further cracking down on offenders through the special training of officers.
Beginning July 1, anyone born after July 30, 1980, will be required to take a mandatory boating education course. People 12 and under will be required to have the certification card with them and be with an operator who is at least 21 years old.
Raymond said this regulation will help cut down on accidents and will help ensure that trained individuals are operating motor boats.
With new equipment, officers are able to obtain accurate blood alcohol content levels.
"The new analyzing machines give officers a pretty accurate measurement of the blood alcohol content," Raymond said. "If there is reason to believe guilt, the person is taken to another law enforcement office for further testing. Penalties are similar to existing driving under the influence laws."
Raymond added that with boating, as with automobiles, a blood alcohol content of 0.10 percent is legally intoxicated.
When considering the legal consequences of drinking and boating or any other summer activities, also weigh the health risks of drinking mixed with the hot summer weather.
"The main danger of drinking during hot summer weather is the danger of heat stroke," said Dr. Barbara McLaurin, extension human nutrition specialist at MSU. "Alcohol has a dehydrating effect."
When the body temperature rises, the body perspires and the sweat evaporates to cool the body.
"In this humid weather the sweat doesn't evaporate as well and causes the body heat to rise," McLaurin said. "Then, the body sweats even more trying to cool itself."
Alcohol compounds this problem because of the dehydrating effect. The alcohol acts as a diuretic and causes the body to lose more fluid through urine.
"If the fluids are not replaced, this can lead to heat exhaustion," McLaurin said. "Water is the best fluid replacement, especially during hot weather."
Heat exhaustion is characterized by extreme fatigue, a feeling of being over-heated and losing a great deal of water or sweat.
"Heat exhaustion can lead to a heat stroke," McLaurin said. "In some cases, heat strokes can cause death."
And since alcohol impairs a drinker's judgement, many times the person cannot decide when to get out of the heat.
Whether in the heat or not, women are more susceptible to the effects of alcohol than men.
"In women, there is less activity of an enzyme that metabolizes alcohol, and after one drink, a woman's blood alcohol content is higher than a man's would be after one drink," McLaurin said.
Anyone who plans to drink, especially if they are going to be out in the heat, should not do so on an empty stomach.
"Food helps to counteract the effects of alcohol," McLaurin said. "On an empty stomach, the effects would be greater and faster."
McLaurin stated five categories of people who should not consume alcohol:
- people who are taking any medication -- over the counter or prescription:
- women who are pregnant or are trying to conceive;
- anyone who will be driving or engaging in activities which require attention and skill;
- people who cannot keep their drinking moderate -- one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men;
- and children and adolescents.
When considering activities for summer enjoyment, if alcohol will be part of the plans, take time to consider all the aspects of excessive consumption of alcohol. The health risk and legal consequences can be hazardous.