Operation Dry Water looks for those boating-under-the-influence

A national emphasis on boating-under-the-influence will be in place this weekend on waterways across Washington as part of Operation Dry Water.

From June 29 to July 1, the Washington Boating Program, safety advocates, and law enforcement agencies are asking boaters to not consume alcohol or marijuana while out on the water—especially when operating a boat.

“Operating a boat while under the influence puts everyone on the water at risk,” said Wade Alonzo, State Parks Boating Law Administrator. “Factors such as wind, sun, noise and a boat’s rocking movement amplify the effects of alcohol and drugs. Balance, vision, reaction time and decision-making skills decrease and the likelihood of an accident increases.”

“The Boating Program’s goal — and the goal of Operation Dry Water —  is to educate boaters, about the laws regarding boating under the influence and the dangers of boating while drunk or high,” Alonzo said.  

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, boating under the influence is the leading known contributing factor in fatal recreational boating accidents. Last year in Washington state, alcohol and drugs were a primary factor in 44 percent of fatal boating accidents, and from 2006 to 2016, 57 deaths were attributed to boating under the influence.

In Washington state, it is illegal to use any substance that impairs a person’s ability to operate a boat. The law applies to all boats, including kayaks, canoes, rowboats and inflatable fishing rafts. State law allows law enforcement officers to require suspected intoxicated boaters to submit to a breath or blood test. Refusing to submit to a test is a civil infraction with a maximum fine of $2,050. The penalty for operating a boat under the influence is a gross misdemeanor punishable by a maximum fine of $5,000 and 364 days in jail. Additionally, a BUI is considered a prior offense if there are later convictions for driving under the influence (DUI).  

“Boat operators need to remember that other boaters and paddlers on the water depend on them to be alert and in control of their vessel at all times,” Alonzo said.

Boaters can learn more about BUI laws in Washington State and about the risks of boating under the influence by visiting boatsober.org.

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