SACRAMENTO, Calif. June 28, 2017 – More than 30 marine law enforcement entities across California will be out in force June 30 – July 2, looking for drunken/impaired recreational boaters. This three-day increased enforcement, known as Operation Dry Water (ODW), is a boating under the influence awareness and enforcement campaign carried out throughout the United States around Fourth of July, a holiday unfortunately known for drinking and boating, and deadly accidents.
According to the Division of Boating and Waterway’s 2016 California Recreational Boating Accident Statistics Report, 588 recreational boating accidents, 266 injuries and 50 fatalities were reported last year. Alcohol was a contributing factor in 40 percent of the boating fatalities where testing was conducted. Nationally, alcohol is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents.
Operating a recreational vessel under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs is dangerous. Alcohol and/or drugs can impair a boater’s judgment, balance, vision and reaction time. It may also increase fatigue and susceptibility to the effect of cold-water immersion. Sun, wind, noise, vibration and motion – “stressors” common to the boating environment – intensify the side effects of alcohol, drugs, and some prescription medications. Alcohol is also dangerous for passengers. Intoxication can lead to slips, falls overboard and other dangerous accidents.
“The concept of designating a driver in a car is not enough for recreational boats,” said DBW’s Deputy Director Lynn Sadler. “Buzzed boat passengers can easily fall overboard, swim near the propeller or cause overloading problems by leaning over the side or standing up in small vessels, causing vessels to capsize. Boating under the influence is a risk for operators and passengers alike.”
In California, it is against the law to operate a boat or water ski with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or more. A person with a BAC less than 0.08 percent may be arrested if conditions are deemed unsafe. Boating under the influence (BUI) convictions can result in up to six months in jail and/or fines of up to $1,000. Two convictions within seven years could add a jail term of up to one year. Boaters caught operating under the influence may also have their voyage terminated and their vessel impounded.
In 2009, the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators launched ODW, a multi-agency education and enforcement initiative, in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard. The program puts thousands of local, state and federal marine law enforcement officers on the water nationwide prior to the Fourth of July holiday to highlight boating under the influence enforcement during the peak boating season.
This year’s ODW participants include:
California Department of Parks and Recreation
City Police Departments
South Lake Tahoe
County Sheriff Departments
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
U.S. Coast Guard Stations
Channel Islands Harbor
Los Angeles-Long Beach
A map of participating agencies with their contact information can be found at: www.OperationDryWater.org/agencies. California specific boating laws and safety tips may be found at: www.BoatCalifornia.com.