Looking forward to relaxing on the boat this weekend with that ice chest full of cold beer? Better think again. Georgia Department of Natural Resources Division law enforcement officers, as part of a national coordinated effort of stepped-up enforcement known as Operation Dry Water, will be out in force the weekend of June 25-27 looking for boat operators whose blood alcohol concentration exceeds the state limit of .10%. Operation Dry Water will include concentrated patrols, breathalyzer tests, and checkpoints as well as boater education.
"We want people to be have fun while boating," said Sgt. Mike Burgamy. "But BUI has become the leading contributing factor in fatal recreational boating accidents. We recommend that boaters avoid drinking alcoholic beverages, 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. United States Coast Guard statistics from 2008, the latest available, reveal that 17 percent of all boat accident fatalities were a direct result of alcohol or drug us. Impaired boaters caught this weekend can expect penalties to be severe. In Georgia they include fines, jail and loss of boating privileges.
Operation Dry Water, launched in 2009 by NASBLA in partnership with the United States Coast Guard, has been a highly successful effort to draw public attention to the hazards of BUI. 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. It is held during the summer boating season and coordinated by NASBLA, in partnership with the states, the U.S. Coast Guard and other agencies. Curbing the number of alcohol and drug-related accidents and fatalities is key to achieving a safer and more enjoyable environment for recreational boating.
Last summer, agencies and organizations from 46 states and 5 territories participated in the first ever Operation Dry Water weekend. Over that three-day weekend, 2,442 marine law enforcement officers made contact with 17,454 recreational vessels and issued 5,320 boating safety warnings, 283 BUI citations and 1,127 citations for other violations. In Georgia, 177 citations for BUI were issued in 2009. This year, all 56 states, trusts and territories are expected to participate, searching for boat operators whose alcohol or drug impairment makes them a danger to other boaters.
"There will be arrests this weekend, and some boaters will face the consequences of boating under the influence," added Sgt. Burgamy. "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 Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, and the U.S. Coast Guard. More information is available at www.operationdrywater.org.