“Sink or Swim” Video Drives Home Message to Teens…Drinking and Operating Watercraft Can Be Fatal

In 2005-06, a total of 111 alcohol-related citations were written by Alabama Marine Police officers for boating under the influence of alcohol. Of those, 97 were written for illegal possession of alcohol.¹ Alcohol affects judgment, vision, balance and coordination, increasing the likelihood of accidents afloat – for both passengers and boat operators. Data shows that in boating deaths involving alcohol use, over half the victims capsized their boats and/or fell overboard.²

In an effort to reduce those numbers, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) Marine Police Division and the Benjamin Russell High School (BRHS) Media Department produced a new video focusing on the dangers of operating watercraft while intoxicated. The Sink or Swim (S.O.S.) video, which targets young people, stresses safe and responsible boating practices and warns that drinking and driving on the water – just like on the road – can kill.

S.O.S. is the brainchild of ADCNR Marine Police Officer Mark Fuller who felt a message targeting teenagers on the water was needed. “After viewing the Every 15 Minutes video produced last year by BRHS Media for their school that outlines the dangers of underage drinking and driving on the roadways, I thought that a video containing the same message pertaining to watercraft would be well-received and maybe save lives,” said Fuller. The emotionally charged Every 15 Minutes is a national program that is personalized by schools to demonstrate to teens the sobering effects of drinking and driving through a staged, alcohol-related fatal car accident. It is used by high schools to convey a simple but alarming message – every 15 minutes someone in the United States dies in an alcohol-related traffic collision. The S.O.S. video will help convey the same important message pertaining to waterways through a re-enacted a fatal boat crash complete with emergency response by medical, fire, and law enforcement agencies including Marine Police and sadly, the coroner’s office and funeral home.

Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Commissioner M. Barnett Lawley thinks the video idea will be well received. “Sometimes it takes the hard reality of this type of accident to make kids think about the consequences that could affect them for the rest of their lives,” said Lawley. “Using safe boating practices helps make recreation on our waters more enjoyable for everyone.”
Twenty BRHS students participated in the S.O.S. production which began in July 2006 and will be completed and ready for distribution later this month. Marine enforcement officers statewide will use the S.O.S. video as a training tool and DVD copies will be offered to marine enforcement agencies nationally. Additionally, it will be included as part of Alabama’s Boating Safety Course, currently taught in Driver Education classes in the state’s high schools.

ADCNR Marine Police Director Corky Pugh hopes the Sink or Swim video will remind teenagers about the potentially dangerous consequences of operating boats and personal watercraft while impaired. “This video will serve as a valuable educational resource to make kids think about the major responsibilities of operating watercraft,” Pugh said. “Also, I would like to see the kids take the message home to their parents that underage drinking and/or being intoxicated at any age while operating watercraft on Alabama’s waterways is against the law and that the law will be strongly enforced.”
As part of BRHS Media, each year the video production class, taught by Laura Gulledge, produces videos for state agencies and non-profit organizations and the school’s closed-circuit television show W.I.L.D. The video production course is designed to allow students to collaborate productions and teaches them in a hands-on learning environment, the basic elements of single-camera operation and videography; on-air talent techniques; broadcast writing; concept development; audio management, and digital video editing.

The S.O.S. video is made possible through the cooperation of ADCNR Marine Police and State Parks Divisions, Air Evac Lifeteam in Elmore, Alabama Beverage Control Board, Alabama Power, Alexander City Fire and Police Departments, Alexander City Rescue Squad, Alexander City School System, Allstate Insurance, Benjamin Russell High School in Alexander City, Lake Martin Realtors Association, Lifesaver Emergency Helicopter Service in Opelika, Radney’s Funeral Home in Alexander City, Russell Corporation, Tallapoosa County Children’s Policy Council, Tallapoosa County Home Builders Association, Tallapoosa County Sheriff’s Department, and Wind Creek State Park.
For more information, visit the BRHS Media Web page at www.alex.k12.al.us/~lgulledge. For more information on acquiring the S.O.S. video, contact the ADCNR Marine Police Division’s Boating Education Section at 1-800-272-7930. To learn more about the Every 15 Minutes program, visit www.every15minutes.com.
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through five divisions: Marine Police, Marine Resources, State Parks, State Lands, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. To learn more about ADCNR visit www.outdooralabama.com.  
Sources: Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources 2005-06 Annual Report¹
U.S. Coast Guard²