OLYMPIA – June 18, 2012 – Washington law enforcement officers will be out in force June 22, 23 and 24 for Operation Dry Water, an annual campaign to detect and enforce boating under the influence (BUI) laws on the state’s waterways.
The campaign focuses on preventing accidents, injuries and deaths resulting from people abusing alcohol or drugs while operating boats. According to Washington State Parks Boating Programs, between 2007 and 2011, at least 30 people died in reportable boating accidents where alcohol use was a contributing factor.
The main focus of the campaign is to raise awareness of the problem and get impaired boat operators off the water by actively enforcing the law that prohibits using alcohol and drugs while operating a boat. The goal of this nationwide effort is to influence boaters to make the decision to Boat Dry and to reinforce it with a zero tolerance enforcement policy.
Officers from all 50 U.S. states and six territories are expected to participate in Operation Dry Water 2012 to help educate the public and be on the lookout for boat operators whose blood alcohol concentration exceeds the national limit of .08. It is illegal in every state and territory to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. BUI laws pertain to ALL boats, from canoes and rowboats to the largest vessels.
The Washington state emphasis is supported by the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard. Boat operators may be cited if their blood alcohol concentration exceeds the state limit of .08. Currently, 50 Washington marine law enforcement agencies are signed on for the effort.
“Boat operation under the influence is a serious problem that too often results in recreational boating fatalities,” said Mark Kenny, Washington State Parks’ spokesperson for Operation Dry Water. “We want people to have fun on the water, so this campaign is focused on zero tolerance for boat operators who are under the influence.”
Kenny said reducing the use of alcohol and drugs by boat operators is crucial to achieving a safer and more enjoyable environment for recreational boating. “Drunken boat operators are a public nuisance and a threat to public safety. We encourage boaters to report dangerous alcohol and drug related behavior to the local marine enforcement unit,” he said.
According to the most recent U.S. Coast Guard statistics, alcohol is the leading contributing factor in boating fatalities; nearly one in five boating fatalities each year is the result of boaters impaired by alcohol.
“It’s important to realize that alcohol can impair a boater’s judgment, balance, vision and reaction time,” says Mercer Island Police Sergeant Jim Robarge. “It can increase fatigue and susceptibility to the effects of cold water immersion. Sun, wind, noise, vibration and motion – all common stressors in the boating environment – intensify the effects of alcohol, drugs and even some prescription medications. We would rather arrest you than have you be involved in a boating accident and potentially hurting or killing yourself or someone else.”
Authorities contend that enforcing laws for operating a boat while under the influence is just as important to public safety as the enforcement of drunken driving laws. For more information on the national Operation Dry Water campaign, visit www.operationdrywater.org/
Stay connected to your state parks by following Washington State Parks at www.facebook.com/WashingtonStateParks, www.twitter.com/WaStatePks_NEWS andwww.youtube.com/WashingtonStateParks.
The Commission manages a diverse system of more than 100 state parks and recreation programs, including long-distance trails, boating safety and winter recreation. The 99-year-old park system will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2013.
Support state parks by purchasing your annual Discover Pass today, and enjoy a whole year of outdoor fun on Washington’s beautiful state-managed recreation lands. For more information, visit www.discoverpass.wa.gov.