DNR to step up boating law enforcement
Recreational boaters may want to think twice before reaching for that cold beer, especially the weekend of June 25-27. West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (DNR) natural resources police officers, as part of a national coordinated effort of stepped-up enforcement known as Operation Dry Water, will be out in force looking for boat operators whose blood alcohol content exceeds the state limit of .08 percent. Operation Dry Water will include increased patrols, breathalyzer tests, and checkpoints as well as boater education.
DNR Law Enforcement is the primary West Virginia agency charged by state law to enforce the state’s boating laws. All major rivers and lakes have patrol boats permanently assigned to them.
“We want people to be safe and have fun while recreational boating,” said Lt. Tim Coleman, DNR’s State Boating Safety Program coordinator. “Alcohol use has become the leading contributing factor in fatal recreational boating accidents. We recommend that boaters avoid drinking alcoholic beverages at all times, and we will have zero tolerance for anyone found operating a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs on our waters.”
Alcohol can impair a boater’s judgment, balance, vision, and reaction time. It can increase fatigue and susceptibility to the effects 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. U.S. Coast Guard statistics reveal that 17 percent of the nation’s boating-related deaths in 2008 resulted from boaters impaired by alcohol or drugs. Impaired boaters caught this weekend can expect penalties to be severe. In West Virginia they include fines and jail time.
“There will be arrests this weekend, and some boaters will face the consequences of boating under the influence,” added Lt. Coleman “But we’d much rather arrest someone than to have to tell their friends and family they’re never coming back.”
Operation Dry Water is a joint program of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA), the U.S. Coast Guard, and several local law enforcement agencies. More information is available at www.operationdrywater. org.
Operation Dry Water is a national weekend of Boating Under the Influence (BUI) detection and enforcement aimed at reducing the number of alcohol and drug-related accidents and fatalities and fostering a stronger and more visible deterrent to alcohol and drug use on the water.
Held during the summer boating season and coordinated by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators-with the states, the U.S. Coast Guard and other partner agencies-Operation Dry Water directly addresses the National Recreational Boating Safety Strategic Plan Strategy 6.2 to “increase the number of BUI checkpoints to collect and report BUI and safety compliance data in the Performance Report Part II,” as well as Strategy 6.6 to “challenge law enforcement officials to test more operators for alcohol/drug use in accident investigations.”
Curbing the number of alcohol and drug-related accidents and fatalities is key to achieving a safer and more enjoyable environment for recreational boating. According to the most recent U.S. Coast Guard statistics, Boating Under the Influence is still the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents, with 17 percent of boating fatalities a direct result of alcohol or drug use.
Boating Under the Influence (BUI) is dangerous and illegal. According to 2008 Coast Guard Recreational Boating Statistics, 17 percent of fatal boating accidents are a result of boat operators using alcohol or drugs.
Operating a recreational vessel with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent or higher is against most State and Federal laws.
If marine law enforcement finds that a boat operator is BUI, the vessel’s voyage will be terminated, the boat may be impounded and the operator may be arrested. Penalties may include fines, imprisonment, impoundment of the boat, loss of boating privileges, even loss of driving privileges.
Alcohol and many drugs can impair a boater’s judgment, balance, vision and reaction time. Alcohol can increase fatigue and susceptibility to hypothermia. Sun, wind, noise, vibration and movement “stressors” common to the boating environment intensify the effects of alcohol, drugs and some prescribed and over-the-counter medications.