Patrolling the Waterways
with Tom Burrell
Operation Dry Water: Stand by, and prepare to be boarded
Alcohol has an intensified effect when combined with the additional stressors such as the sun, wind, noise, and motion common to the boating environment
Beginning today (June 28, 2013) and throughout this weekend, one of the largest police operations of the year will take place. For three days, maritime units nationwide will be participating in the joint US Coast Guard / National Association of State Boating Law Enforcement Administrators (NASBLA) effort OPERATION DRY WATER and expectations are high.
An estimated 4,500 officers from more than 500 departments in all 50 states (as well as six territories and trusts) will be working special patrol to ensure that impaired boaters are detected, apprehended, and prosecuted.
In the four years since the annual program began NASBLA estimates that over 1200 impaired operators have been apprehended, 337 in 2012 alone.
BUI: A Deadly Crime
Unfortunately, boating under the influence is both a deadly and frequently-encountered aspect of American recreational boating. For many boaters, a weekend on the water and a beer in cooler go hand in hand.
While society in general has finally begun to view driving a car under the influence as an unacceptable, practice, that same stigma has not transferred to boating in the same condition.
When peer pressure is lacking and personal responsibility is non-existent the only option left is for law enforcement to do what we are ultimately paid for — provide a visible deterrent when possible and make arrests when necessary.
Although Operation Dry Water has not eliminated boating under the influence — nor can we realistically expect this to be an ultimate outcome — it has led to measurable reductions in alcohol related incidents.
Coast Guard statistics indicate that in 2009 alcohol was a contributing factor in a staggering 19 percent of boating fatalities. Statistics for 2011 indicate that number had dropped to 17 percent, due in great part to the success of Operation Dry Water and the increased level of experience and training gained by those officers who have participated.
Boating under the influence is against the law in all US jurisdictions and convicted operators can expect to face severe fine, loss of operator privileges and even jail time. Here are some other BUI facts:
• Impaired operators can be found on any waterway and in any type or size of vessel — whether it’s a cabin cruiser off the New Jersey shore or a canoe on a Missouri back water, the risk is ever present
• The average boater has only 110 hours of experience per year, meaning they are far less competent than when they’re behind the wheel of their motor vehicle
• Alcohol has an intensified effect when combined with the additional stressors such as the sun, wind, noise, and motion common to the boating environment — this can make even a “buzzed” boater a deadly prospect
For more information on how your department can participate in this year’s Operation Dry Water, check out the new website.
Departments who have already registered can also visit the website to obtain educational material or training information. Boaters can even log on to take a pledge to never boat and drink.