LITTLE ROCK, AR (News Release) – Wildlife officers across Arkansas and the U.S. are gearing up for Operation Dry Water – the nation’s boating under the influence awareness and enforcement campaign. The nationwide event will take place June 27-29. Alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in recreational boater deaths in the United States.
During the three-day Operation Dry Water weekend, law enforcement officers at local, state and federal levels will be on heightened alert for those violating boating under the influence laws. In 2013, officers contacted 144,044 recreational boaters and made 290 BUI arrests during the three-day weekend. Thousands of law enforcement officers, along with their boating safety partners, will be on the water during Operation Dry Water educating boaters about the dangers of boating under the influence of drugs and alcohol as well as removing from the water those who choose to boat impaired.
Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Boating Law Administrator Stephanie Weatherington says that BUI is a big concern for Arkansas wildlife officers. “It’s no different than driving a car under the influence. When you’re driving a boat you’re putting both yourself and others in danger,” she said. “So far this year we’ve already had 26 reported boating accidents around the state with eight fatalities. Statistics show that the Fourth of July holiday weekend is the most dangerous weekend during the boating season,” she added.
Last year AGFC wildlife officers made 60 BUI arrests. So far this year, there have been eight BUI arrests. During last year’s Operation Dry Water, 82 officers worked over 1,500 hours over the three-day weekend making contact with hundreds of vessels and boaters, Weatherington said. “They made 11 BUI arrests with the highest BAC level of .20 which is more than double the legal limit,” she added. Since 2008, officers have made 449 BUI arrests.
Wildlife officers with the AGFC will be participating in Operation Dry Water 2014 again this year. The enforcement operation will be held June 27-29, just prior to the Fourth of July. Those caught operating a vessel under the influence will find their voyage terminated and their vessel possibly impounded. Penalties may also include arrest, fines and loss of boating privileges. Officers also will be passing out citations to kids for good behavior on the state’s waterways. The citations are good for a free ice cream cone at Sonic.
"The mission of Operation Dry Water and the law enforcement officers who participate is to reduce the number of alcohol- and drug-related deaths on the water,” says John Fetterman, National Association of State Boating Law Administrators Deputy Executive Director. “Boating should be a fun and enjoyable time spent with friends and family; we are asking that boaters make sure their voyage remains enjoyable by boating sober. Too many accidents and deaths are caused by those who choose to boat under the influence.”
In 2009, NASBLA, in partnership with the United States Coast Guard, launched Operation Dry Water to help draw public attention to the dangers of boating under the influence of alcohol and drugs. According to the 2013 U.S. Coast Guard Recreational Boating Statistics, from 2009 to 2013 there has been a 37 percent decrease in the number of recreational boater deaths where alcohol use was listed as the known primary contributing factor. From 2012 to 2013, there was a 31 percent decrease in the number of alcohol-related recreational boater deaths – the most significant decrease in the past five years.
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