What is one of the leading contributing factors in fatal boating accidents? Alcohol. Just like being behind the wheel of a vehicle while intoxicated, the consequences of boating under the influence are deadly.
Alcohol can impair vision, coordination, balance and judgment. All of these impairments are further magnified by being on the water; when impaired by alcohol, boating accidents are more likely and more deadly for both passengers and boat operators. Sun, wind, noise, vibration and motion – stressors common to the boating environment – intensify the side effects of alcohol and drugs on the water.
Each state has laws prohibiting operation of a vessel while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The Coast Guard also enforces a federal law prohibiting boating under the influence. Operating a recreational vessel with a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher is against federal law. The blood alcohol content is .04 or higher if you are aboard a commercial vessel.
This weekend, June 22 through 24, a multi-agency initiative is taking to the water in an effort to limit accidents and fatalities as a result of boating under the influence and educate boaters across the nation on just how dangerous it is to mix boating and alcohol.
Operation Dry Water puts thousands of local, state and federal law enforcement officers on the water nationwide to keep a lookout for boaters who drink as well as providing boating safety education and awareness materials.
This operation will not be limited to just those on the water, however. Approximately 80 percent of recreational boats are driven on trailers to lakes, rivers and coastal marinas, meaning drunk boaters become drunk drivers. Many shore-side law enforcement officers are joining the effort to make our roads just as safe as our waterways.
The operation, coordinated by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard, will rely heavily on partnerships.
In fact, more than 450 agencies partnered to make last year a success. In 2011, all 50 states and six U.S. territories participated in Operation Dry Water. Over the three-day surge, law enforcement officers made contact with 97,648 boaters, made 325 BUI arrests and issued 4,370 citations for safety violations.
Many recreational boaters forget that a boat is a vehicle – and that safe operation is a legal and personal responsibility. You can do your part to help out in Operation Dry Water and year-round by spreading the word about being a safe boater. Stay safe. And stay sober!