ANNAPOLIS (June 21, 2009)—A new national program called Operation Dry Water seeks to keep intoxicated boaters off of national waterways. Maryland Natural Resources and local police, along with the Coast Guard, say they plan to participate in an enforcement operation this coming weekend, June 26-28.
Boating Under the Influence (BUI) is illegal in all 50 states and territories. BUI is where the Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) exceeds the national limit of .08% Impaired boaters found to be boating under the influence can expect penalties to be severe. They may include fines, jail, and loss of boating or even driving privileges.
The Maryland officers will be targeting high accident areas and areas where boating and alcohol have been a problem in the past. These patrols will take place in every part of the state from Deep Creek Lake in Garrett County, the Potomac River, and the Chesapeake Bay in central and southern Maryland, to the Coastal Bays and the Atlantic Oceans.
The Natural Resources Police say that the sun, wind and the action of the waves and water causes fatigue to the boater. The use of alcohol during boating magnifies this fatigue and impairs judgment. The increase in fatigue and impaired judgment can lead to accidents and death.
Nationwide 21% of boating fatalities were the result of alcohol use, according to the NRP. In Maryland, there were 222 alcohol related charges placed against boating operators, which is above the ten year average of 129 arrests.
According to the National Recreational Boating Statistics, published annually by the U.S. Coast Guard, deaths, injuries and accidents on the water that result from alcohol involvement have been trending downward from a high of 704 alcohol-related boating accidents in 1998 to 421 accidents in 2007. Even with the downward trend, however, alcohol use is still the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents.
Operation Dry Water is organized by the National Association of State Boating Law Enforcement Administrators (NSBLA) in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard.