Operation Dry Water will include increased patrols, breathalyzer tests, and checkpoints as well as boater education. Impaired boaters can expect penalties to be severe. In California, the penalties for boating under the influence (BUI) are similar to driving; they include fines, jail and loss of boating or even driving privileges.
"We intend to stop intoxicated and impaired boaters," says Lt. George Wright of the Marine Patrol Unit. "We will also focus on educating as many boaters as possible about the hazards of BUI."
A boat operator or passenger with a blood alcohol concentration above the legal limit runs a significantly increased risk of being involved in a boating accident. When impaired by alcohol, boating accidents are more likely and more deadly for both passengers and boat operators, many of whom capsize their vessel or simply fall overboard. In 2010, the Marine Patrol Unit arrested 18 boaters for BUI. There were 23 accidents involving vessels and two fatalities.
BUI is a primary contributing factor in nearly 1 in 5 boating fatalities nationwide. California has gotten tougher in recent years in enforcing laws against this high-risk behavior. Boaters found operating a recreational vessel with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher will find their voyage terminated and may have their vessel impounded. BUI also applies to drugs and medications which can make the operation of a boat unsafe.
Operation Dry Water is a multi-agency, education and enforcement initiative launched by National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) in 2009 in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard. Thousands of local, state and federal marine law enforcement officers will be on the water nationwide the last weekend in June to give BUI enforcement high visibility during the peak boating season.
"There will be arrests this weekend, and some boaters will face the consequences of boating under the influence," says Lt. Wright. "We want recreational boaters to enjoy themselves but to be responsible and plan ahead."
Operation Dry Water is a joint program of the California Department of Boating and Waterways, NASBLA, the U.S. Coast Guard and other partner agencies. For more information, visit www.operationdrywater.org.