Jun 22, 2010 6:12 PM by Melissa Canone
Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Law Enforcement Division (LDWF/LED) agents will take part in this weekend's Operation Dry Water, a nationally coordinated effort focusing on increased boating safety.
From June 25 through 27, agents will be out in force patrolling state waterways for boat operators whose blood alcohol content exceeds the state limit of .08 percent. Operation Dry Water includes increased patrols as well as boater education.
"We want people to be safe and have fun while boating recreationally," commented Lt. Col. Jeff Mayne, LDWF's state Boating Law Administrator. "But alcohol use has become the leading contributing factor in fatal recreational boating accidents. We recommend that boaters avoid drinking alcoholic beverages at all times, and we will have zero tolerance for anyone found operating a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs on our waters."
Alcohol can impair a boater's judgment, balance, vision and reaction time. It can increase fatigue and susceptibility to the effects of cold-water immersion. Sun, wind, noise, vibration and motion intensify the side effects of alcohol, drugs and some prescription medications.
Louisiana had 32 fatalities from boating crash incidents in 2009. Alcohol was again the leading primary cause of those boating fatal incidents leading to 24 percent of the fatalities. Out of the 32 fatalities from boating crash incidents, 17 were drowning and 15 of those were not wearing a life jacket. Nationwide, statistics from 2008 reveal that 17 percent of all boat incident fatalities were a direct result of alcohol or drug us.
Impaired boaters caught this weekend can expect penalties to be severe. In Louisiana, a DWI on the water is the same penalties and fines as they are on the road and include jail time, fines and loss of driving and boating operator privileges.
"There will be arrests this weekend and some boaters will face the consequences of operating a boat while impaired," added Lt. Col. Mayne. "But we'd much rather arrest someone than to have to tell their friends and family they're never coming back."
Operation Dry Water is a joint program involving the LDWF/LED, the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) and the U.S. Coast Guard. More information is available at www.operationdrywater.org.