PROVIDENCE – Safe boating patrols will be stepped up on June 28 to June 30 in a joint operation conducted by the Department of Environmental Management's Division of Law Enforcement and US Coast Guard Units from Castle Hill and Point Judith. The effort is part of Operation Dry Water, a coordinated national weekend of Boating Under the Influence (BUI) detection and enforcement. It is aimed at reducing the number of alcohol-related and drug-related accidents and fatalities, and making recreational boaters aware of the dangers of alcohol and drug use on the water.
During Operation Dry Water, marine law enforcement officers will be out in full force on Rhode Island waterways, searching for boat operators whose blood alcohol content exceeds the state limit of .08 percent. The long weekend will feature increased enforcement patrols, administration of breathalyzer tests, and efforts to educate boaters. Impaired boaters can expect to be arrested or face other serious penalties. In Rhode Island, the consequences for BUI include fines, jail, and loss of boating or even driving privileges.
"We are dedicated to keeping boaters safe on our waters. Boating is a safe and enjoyable pastime when people stay alert and follow the rules," says Sergeant Steven Criscione of DEM's Division of Law Enforcement. "Throughout the weekend, our law enforcement officers will have a visible presence on the water looking for boaters who are operating a vessel under the influence."
Boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs continues to be a major problem across the nation. U.S. Coast Guard data reveals that alcohol is the primary contributing factor in recreational boating fatalities. Intoxicated boat operators and passengers run a significantly increased risk of being involved in a fatal boating accident. Alcohol can impair a boater's judgment, balance, vision and reaction time, as well as increase fatigue and susceptibility to the effects of cold-water immersion. Sun, wind, noise, vibration and motion – stressors common to the boating environment – intensify the side effects of alcohol, drugs, and some prescription medications.
Coordinated by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators working with the states, the US Coast Guard and other partner agencies, Operation Dry Water is a nationwide education and enforcement initiative that was launched in 2009. Last summer, all 50 states and six U.S. territories participated in Operation Dry Water. Over that three-day weekend marine law enforcement officers made contact with 49,209 vessels and 113,116 boaters. In addition to the 337 BUI arrests made, 4,819 citations and 9,695 warnings were issued for safety violations. This included 16 vessel boardings, three written warnings, three search-and-rescues, and two arrests by DEM environmental police officers.