LEXINGTON, Ky. – With boating under the influence continuing to be a major factor in accidents and deaths on our nation’s waterways, thousands of officers with local, state and federal agencies will again team up for Operation Dry Water in a coordinated effort to be on the water providing heightened enforcement and awareness about the dangers of boating under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Operation Dry Water 2013 is June 28-30, just before the Fourth of July, a holiday known for drinking and boating, and deadly accidents. Operation Dry Water is a nationwide education and enforcement initiative launched by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard.
Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Boating Law Administrator Stephanie Weatherington says that BUI is a big concern for Arkansas wildlife officers.
“It’s no different than driving a car under the influence. When you’re driving a boat you’re putting both yourself and others in danger,” she said. “So far this year we’ve already had 20 reported boating accidents around the state with seven fatalities. Statistics show that the Fourth of July holiday weekend is the most dangerous weekend during the boating season,” she added.
Last year AGFC wildlife officers made 92 BUI arrests. So far this year, there have been 14 BUI arrests. During last year’s Operation Dry Water, officers worked 1,519 hours over the three-day weekend making contact with 2,222 vessels and 5,341 boaters, Weatherington said. “They made 17 BUI arrests with the highest BAC level of .198 which is more than double the legal limit,” she added. Since 2008, officers have made 408 BUI arrests.
Wildlife officers with the AGFC will be participating in Operation Dry Water 2013 again this year. The enforcement operation will be held June 28-30, just prior to the Fourth of July. Those caught operating a vessel under the influence will find their voyage terminated and their vessel possibly impounded. Penalties may also include arrest, fines and loss of boating privileges. Officers also will be passing out citations to kids for good behavior on the state’s waterways. The citations are good for a free ice cream cone at Sonic.
Since the launch of Operation Dry Water in 2009, the percentage of boating fatalities with alcohol listed as a contributing factor has decreased from 19 percent to 17 percent in the United States.
Despite the decrease, BUI still accounts for a disproportional number of on-the-water deaths. In 2011, alcohol was a contributing factor in just 8 percent of boating accidents overall, but figured in 17 percent of boating fatalities.
In 2012, 51 states and U.S. territories participated in Operation Dry Water. More than 4,500 officers from 505 local, state, and federal agencies participated in 72 hours of heightened BUI enforcement. Officers were able to remove 337 BUI operators from the water while issuing an additional 14,514 boating safety citations and warnings. In addition, law enforcement officers made contact with over 113,000 boaters concerning BUI or boating safety enforcement and awareness. From 2009 to 2012 over 1,200 BUI operators have been removed from the water and over 313,500 boaters have been contacted by a law enforcement officer during the Operation Dry Water weekends.
In 2013 NASBLA’s Operation Dry Water received the national Horizon Award, from the National Safe Boating Council, for the campaign’s dedication to moving the cause of recreational boating safety to a new level. The campaign was also recognized for its encouragement to boaters to take a pledge to make wise decisions about alcohol use, and to never drink while boating.
Toby Velasquez, NASBLA president, says, “Operation Dry Water has proven to be a successful campaign. I encourage every local, state and federal agency tasked with boating law enforcement to participate in this worthwhile BUI enforcement and awareness effort.”
Officers from all 56 U.S. states, trusts and territories are expected to participate in Operation Dry Water 2013 by educating the public and providing heightened BUI enforcement for the safety of those operating a vessel as well as other boaters on the water.