SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. – West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR) law enforcement officers are gearing up to participate in Operation Dry Water 2012, an annual nationwide campaign focused on enforcement of BUI laws and educating all boaters to the risks of operating a boat under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. Recreational boating fatalities last year jumped to their highest levels since 1998 and boating under the influence (BUI) was the leading contributing factor, according to the U.S. Coast Guard’s report, 2011 Recreational Boating Statistics.
Officers will patrolling the waterways on June 22-24 looking for boaters whose blood alcohol content (BAC) exceeds the state limit of .08. Operation Dry Water will include increased patrols, as well as boater education. Impaired boaters can expect penalties to be severe. In West Virginia the consequences for BUI include fines and jail time.
“We intend to keep our waterways safe and to reach out to as many people as possible about the hazards of boating under the influence,” said WVDNR Lt. Tim Coleman, state spokesperson for Operation Dry Water.
BUI continues to be a major problem in the country. A boat operator or even passengers with a blood alcohol concentration above the legal limit run a significantly increased risk of being involved in a fatal boating accident. Alcohol was a contributing factor in just six percent of boating accidents overall, but figured in 16 percent of boating fatalities in the U.S. last year. When impaired by alcohol, boating accidents are more probable and more deadly for both passengers and boat operators, many of whom capsize their vessel or simply fall overboard.
Operation Dry Water (ODW), a multi-agency education and enforcement initiative launched by NASBLA in 2009 in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard, puts thousands of local, state and federal marine law enforcement officers on the water nationwide prior to the July 4th holiday 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," said Coleman. "Boating is a safe and enjoyable pastime when people stay alert and follow the rules. We want boaters to understand the added risks associated with BUI and to avoid drinking and boating.”
Operation Dry Water 2012 is a joint program of WVDNR, the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, and the U.S. Coast Guard. For more information, visit www.operationdrywater.org
Lt. Tim Coleman, Law Enforcement Section