Coast Guard, maritime enforcement agencies team up for Operation Dry Water

Operation Dry Water logo
CLEVELAND — Coast Guard units and partnering maritime enforcement agencies will be increasing their presence on waterways across the Great Lakes in support of Operation Dry Water, Friday through Sunday.

Operation Dry Water is an annual, nationwide campaign during which federal, state and local law enforcement agencies take to the water to educate boaters and raise awareness that it is unsafe, as well as illegal, to operate a boat under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

Alcohol continues to be a leading contributing factor in recreational boating accidents, injuries and deaths.  According to the Coast Guard’s Recreational Boating Statistics 2012 report, the most current validated statistics available; alcohol use was determined to be the leading factor in nearly 17% of the deaths in 2012.

“Boating while under the influence is just as dangerous as driving under the influence,” said Cmdr. David Beck, chief of the Coast Guard 9th District Enforcement Branch. “When consuming alcohol on the water, the environmental influences of the sun, vibration, waves, and dehydration can magnify the effects of alcohol. If you plan to consume alcohol, plan ahead and have a sober operator return you home safely.”

So far this year, Coast Guard boarding teams throughout the Great Lakes region have issued nearly 40 citations to boaters found to be operating their vessels under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance. Of those citations, which are civil in nature, 16 were also issued federal tickets. A federal ticket may be issued when the Coast Guard boarding officer determines the boater’s actions have violated federal law, such as boating under the influence or gross negligent operation of a vessel, both violations under 46 U.S.C. 2302.  Almost all of the federal tickets the Coast Guard is permitted to issue constitute Class A misdemeanors. Each ticket issued by the Coast Guard is prosecuted by the Department of Justice in various U.S. district courts throughout the Great Lakes.

A boat operator with a blood alcohol content above the legal limit, .08 percent (0.1 percent in Michigan waters), runs a significantly increased risk of being involved in a boating accident.  Boaters operating under the influence are not the only ones at grave risk — passengers who are under the influence can drown while swimming from anchored or adrift vessels.

Operation Dry Water, launched by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators in 2009, in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard, is supported by thousands of local, state and federal marine law enforcement officers on the water before Independence Day to give BUI enforcement high visibility before a holiday known for drinking and boating ― and deadly accidents.

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