Effort is part of "Operation Dry Water" campaign to curb impaired boating
PROVIDENCE – The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) will join partners across the country this weekend for the annual Operation Dry Water campaign – a national crackdown on impaired boating. As the summer boating season gets into full swing, DEM's Division of Law Enforcement will be conducting increased patrols from Friday to Sunday monitoring for boaters under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The goals of the three-day enforcement campaign are reducing the number of alcohol and drug- related accidents and fatalities, deterring alcohol and drug use on the water, and raising awareness of the seriousness of the problem.
"It is our job as law enforcement officers to identify and remove drunk or impaired boaters from the water – so that everyone can continue to have an enjoyable boating season," said Lieutenant Steven Criscione, boating safety coordinator for DEM's Division of Law Enforcement. "Protecting the public goes to the heart of our mission. DEM is proud to join the thousands of law enforcement officers across the county in the annual Operation Dry Water campaign."
From June 29 through July 1, law enforcement agencies nationwide will be out in force, looking for boaters who choose to boat under the influence and removing them from the water. Enhanced awareness messaging about the dangers of boating under the influence, along with an increased number of officers on the water, aim to cut down on the number of accidents and deaths due to impaired boating.
Impairment can be even more dangerous for boaters than for drivers because most boaters have less experience and confidence operating a boat than they do operating a car. In addition, factors that are common to boating such as sun, wind, noise, vibration, and motion can intensify the effects of alcohol, drugs, and some medications.
Lieutenant Criscione notes that operating a boat under the influence of alcohol and or drugs has impacts both on and off the water. "Many boaters trailer their boats. An intoxicated boater, if undetected, could eventually get behind the wheel of a car and onto our highways – putting countless people at risk," he said. "Regardless of whether you personally boat or not, we all have the potential to be impacted by an impaired boater."
The U.S. Coast Guard finds that alcohol use was the leading cause of recreational boating deaths in 2017 – with 17 percent of all recreational boating fatalities nationwide attributed to alcohol use. Alcohol and drugs were contributing factors in two of the four fatalities that DEM's Division of Law Enforcement responded to in 2017. There are nearly 40,000 registered boats in Rhode Island. According to Rhode Island law, the limits (.08) and penalties are the same for driving and boating under the influence. Testing standards also are consistent.
Operation Dry Water is a joint program of RI DEM Environmental Police, the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, the U.S. Coast Guard, and other partner agencies. As part of the 2017 campaign, DEM boarded 111 vessels, issuing 47 warnings and citations for boating-related equipment, operation, and other violations; conducting one boating under the influence investigation; initiating four boating accident responses; conducting six search-and-rescue missions; and making three arrests.
For more information on Operation Dry Water, please visit operationdrywater.org. For more information on Rhode Island boating laws, visit www.dem.ri.gov. Follow DEM on Twitter (@RhodeIslandDEM) or Facebook at www.facebook.com/RhodeIslandDEM for timely updates.