The US Coast Guard has launched Operation Dry Water as part of a nationally coordinated effort to reduce the number of accidents and deaths related to boating under the influence.
Operation Dry Water is a year-long campaign with heightened enforcement leading up to the Fourth of July, a period known for increased boating and alcohol use.
Coast Guard boarding officers will be on the water educating boaters about the dangers of boating under the influence and detecting boaters who are impaired.
Operating a boat with a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher is against federal law, and boat operators found to be under the influence can incur severe penalties including termination of voyage, arrest, fines, and even loss of boating and driving privileges.
Boating under the influence of drugs or alcohol endangers the operator's life and the lives of others. Alcohol can impair a boater’s judgment, balance, vision, and reaction time. Impairment can be even more dangerous for boaters than drivers because the sun, wind, noise, and motion of being on the water can intensity the effects of alcohol. Also, most boaters have less experience driving a boat than a car.
“The combination of alcohol and inexperience can be deadly,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Thomas Ciarametaro, a tactical coxswain and boarding officer at Coast Guard Station Boston. He said boating under the influence has been a factor in recent accidents in the Boston area, and continues to be a major problem nationwide.
In fact, alcohol consumption is the leading cause of boating deaths. Alcohol is also dangerous for boating passengers. Intoxication can lead to slips, falls overboard and other dangerous accidents.
BUI laws pertain to all vessels, from canoes and rowboats to the largest ships.
In 2014, 585 local, state and federal agencies participated in the 72 hours of heightened BUI enforcement. Over the three-day weekend, law enforcement contacted 146,711 boaters, made 318 BUI arrests, and issued 18,607 citations and warnings for safety violations.
For more information on Operation Dry Water, please visit operationdrywater.org.