LDWF to Enforce “Operation Dry Water”
Operation Dry Water is part of a nationwide effort to step up patrol efforts looking for impaired boat operators coordinated by the National Association of Safe Boating Law Administrators from June 28-30.
Operation Dry Water, launched in 2009 by NASBLA, 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. More information is available at www.operationdrywater.org.
Last summer, agencies and organizations from 50 states and 6 U.S. territories participated in the third Operation Dry Water weekend. Over that three-day weekend law enforcement officers contacted 49,209 vessels and 113,116 boaters, made 337 BUI arrests, and issued 4,819 citations and 9,695 warnings for safety violations. All reported numbers were higher than those reported the previous year.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is doing their part in this national effort with increased safe boating patrols and checkpoints. Last year they made 5 BUI arrests and 10 BUI arrests in 2011 over the Operation Dry Water Weekend.
Louisiana has had only 3 boating fatalities in 2013 to date. At this point in time last year, Louisiana had 14 boating fatalities. The colder weather has probably played a part in the decreased number of fatalities, but also stress that our boating education program, stricter PFD regulations and DWI enforcement also plays a role.
Louisiana had 116 boating crash incidents resulting in 84 injuries and 25 boating fatalities in all of 2012. Out of those 25 boating fatalities in 2012, 15 were ruled as drowning, which could have been prevented if they were wearing a PFD. Also, out of the 25 boating fatalities, alcohol played a role in six or 24%.
Alcohol consumption impairs a boater’s judgment, balance, vision and reaction time. Alcohol also increases fatigue and susceptibility to hypothermia. Intensifying the effects of alcohol are sun, wind, noise, vibration and movement, which are all common to boating activities.
The penalties for DWI on the water are the same as on the road. Anyone cited for a DWI on the water or on the road will lose his or her driver’s license and boating privileges for the specified time ordered by the judge in the case. Also, each offense of operating a vehicle or vessel while intoxicated counts toward the total number of DWI crimes whether they happened on the water or road.
In Louisiana a DWI can be issued to anyone operating a moving vessel or vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher. First offense DWI on the water or on the road carries a $300 to $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail. Second offense DWI brings a $750 to $1,000 fine and between 30 days and six months in jail. Third offense DWI carries a $5,000 fine and between one and five years in jail.
Impairment can be even more dangerous for boaters than for motor vehicle drivers since most boaters have less experience and confidence operating a boat than they do driving a car. Boaters average only about 110 hours of boating per year. Louisiana boat operators average over 20 trips a year.
Since the start of Operation Dry Water in 2009, the percentage of boating fatalities with alcohol named as a contributing factor has decreased from 19% to 17% in the United States.
Nationwide From 2009 to 2012 law enforcement officers have removed over 1,200 BUI operators from the water and made contact with over 313,500 boaters during the Operation Dry Water weekend.
In 2012, alcohol was a contributing factor in just 8 percent of boating accidents overall, but figured in 17 percent of boating fatalities.
Everybody born after Jan. 1, 1984 must complete a boater’s safety education course to operate a vessel in excess of 10 HP. LDWF offers these classes statewide free of charge. Class information can be found at www.wlf.louisiana.gov. For more information on Operation Dry Water or speak with you local Enforcement Agent, call 1-800-442-2511.