Long Island Sound law enforcement surge aims to promote safe boating

NEW HAVEN, CONN.–Multiple first-response agencies from Connecticut and Long Island completed their second summer weekend surge operation in an ongoing effort to educate the boating public and enforce recreational boating safety laws with particular attention to boating under the influence (BUI) as part of Operation Sector Aggressive Vessel Enforcement Sunday, June 28.
The Coast Guard worked with more than 20 federal, state, county, and local maritime agencies as part of OPSAVE. The multi-agency task force inspected safety equipment and registration documents on board 667 vessels, issued 184 violations, and terminated 32 voyages during the surge operation June 26 through 28.

Sunday also marked the end of a national Coast Guard law enforcement surge operation called “Operation Dry Water.” Operation Dry Water is a multi-agency event, which enforces boating under the influence (BUI) laws and promotes BUI education. During this campaign, marine law enforcement agencies throughout the 56 states and territories intensified BUI enforcement through increased patrols and sobriety checkpoints on the water. The aim of Operation Dry Water is to reduce the number of alcohol-related accidents, injuries, and deaths. The OPSAVE program has been carried out by Sector Long Island Sound and their partners since 2004 to enforce all boating safety laws in an attempt decrease the number of boating related fatalities and coincides perfectly with the goals and intentions of the Coast Guard’s national “Operation Dry Water.”

“The goal of OPSAVE is to aggressively educate boaters to exercise safe seamanship and observe the boating laws in an effort to reduce loss of life and property damage,” said Cmdr. Robert McKenna, Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound chief of response operations, “as well as to reduce the number of search and rescue missions and future boating while intoxicated arrests and penalties.”

During boardings this weekend law enforcement personnel looked for proper registration documents and inspected mandatory safety equipment, such as personal floatation devices (PFDs), fire extinguishers and flares. Boarding teams also looked to see that PFDs are in good condition and that there is at least one PFD for each person aboard a vessel, including child-size PFDs on vessels with young passengers. Most vessels are required to carry fire extinguishers and flares that have not reached the expiration date printed on the flare. The minimum number, and type, of flares and fire extinguishers depends upon the size of the vessel.

Boating under the influence (BUI) is always taken very seriously and is vigorously enforced in combination with safety equipment and boating safety. In recent years, fines and penalties for boating while intoxicated have been increased and now match those of driving while intoxicated. The state blood alcohol limit for boating while intoxicated is .08.

The OPSAVE task force was originally developed in Suffolk County, N.Y., in 2003 to reverse an upward trend of boating-related fatalities and boating-while-intoxicated violations.

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