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Law enforcement agencies to conduct on-the-water emphasis patrols
OLYMPIA — The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission announced today that marine law enforcement agencies in Washington state will participate in a national special emphasis campaign to target people who are operating boats while under the influence of alcohol and drugs.
The “Operation Dry Water” campaign and emphasis patrols take place the weekend of June 27-29 throughout Washington and will focus on preventing injury and death in accidents resulting from boating under the influence (BUI). The planned weekend focus is aimed at raising awareness of the problem and getting impaired boat operators off the water by actively enforcing the law that prohibits using alcohol and drugs while operating a boat.
According to the Washington State Parks Boating Program, between 2004 and 2013, at least 64 people died in Washington state boating accidents where alcohol use was a contributing factor. Recent U.S. Coast Guard statistics report that boating under the influence is still the leading factor in fatal boating accidents, with 17 percent of boating fatalities a direct result of alcohol use by the operator.
“Boating under the influence is a serious problem that too often results in recreational boating fatalities,” said Hoyle Hodges, Washington State Parks’ spokesperson for Operation Dry Water. “We want everyone to have fun on the water, so this campaign is focused on zero tolerance for boat operators who are under the influence.”
Hodges said reducing the use of alcohol and drugs by boat operators is crucial to achieving a safer and more enjoyable environment for recreational boating.
“Boaters need to realize that alcohol can impair their judgment, balance, vision and reaction time,” Hodges said. “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.”
All 56 states, trusts and territories of the U.S. are expected to join the Operation Dry Water effort. Boat operators may be cited if their blood alcohol concentration exceeds the state limit of .08. Currently, 30 Washington state, county and city marine law enforcement agencies are signed on for the effort. The first BUI special emphasis was launched in 2009 by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard.
During the June 2013 campaign, 169 Washington marine law enforcement officers made contact with 3,908 recreational boaters and issued 1,364 boating safety warnings, 6 BUI citations and 219 citations for other violations.
Authorities say that enforcing laws for operating a boat while under the influence is just as important to public safety as the enforcement of drunk driving laws.
For more information on the national Operation Dry Water campaign, visit http://www.operationdrywater.org.