‘Operation Dry Water’ Targets Boaters Under the Influence July 3-5


Alabama and Georgia state marines came together Wednesday, July 1 to launch their Operation Dry Water campaign at Lake Point Resort on Lake Eufaula. Before Independence Day weekend, law enforcement already noticed an increase in boater safety violations. Likely the result of more people out on the water earlier in the year due to COVID-19.

One thing that will stay the same this Fourth of July is Operation Dry Water (ODW), a year-round boating under the influence awareness and enforcement campaign. Operation Dry Water’s heightened awareness and enforcement three-day weekend takes place annually around July Fourth, a holiday unfortunately known for drinking and boating, and deadly accidents.

“Have a good time. Enjoy your friends, enjoy the water,” said Michael Weathers, Chief of Enforcement for Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Division. “Don’t put yourself or others at risk by consuming alcohol and being in charge of a vessel.”

The mission of Operation Dry Water is to reduce the number of alcohol and drug related accidents and fatalities through increased awareness. Alcohol is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents nationwide.

“In 2019, there were 69 deaths on Georgia’s waterways,” said Colonel Thomas Barnard, Georgia Law Enforcement Division. “So far this year we’ve had 31 Georgians die from either boat crashes or drownings.”

The boat operator may be arrested, and the boat impounded. Penalties vary by state but can include fines, jail time and the loss of boating or driving privileges. Fatalities can be avoided by taking a few extra safety precautions.

“If you must drink and you’re on the water, please have a designated operator of that vessel. Just like you would in a vehicle,” said Steve Thompson, Chief of Alabama Marine Patrol and ALEA.

“Roughly 84% of all on the water fatalities, life jackets weren’t being used,” said Weathers. “Above all else, that one thing can mean the difference between life and death.”

Social distancing will also be on the radar this year. Boaters must maintain a safe distance at fuel docks and launch ramps and avoid congregating with other boaters.

“While we will be looking for impaired operators, we will also be enforcing the Governor’s executive order,” said Colonel Barnard. “We can work together to defeat this virus and keep our waters safe.”

The campaign, coordinated by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA), offers these ten tips for practicing social distancing and keeping everyone safe and healthy while boating.

1.    Don’t drink and boat. Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in boater deaths. Do not bring or consume alcohol or drugs while on the water.
2.    Follow state and local guidance regarding any boating or access restrictions.
3.    Only boat with those in your household and don’t go boating if you or someone in your household is feeling sick.
4.    Don’t raft up. Don’t congregate with other boats or boaters.
5.    Stay at least six feet away from others. This includes maintaining a safe distance at fuel docks and launch ramps. Wear a cloth face mask in public settings where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain or during interaction with law enforcement.
6.    Limit contacts. Go from your house to the boat and back, limiting unnecessary contacts.
7.    Wear a life jacket. All boaters should be wearing a life jacket while near or on the water, and for the entire voyage. 84% of people who drowned in a recreational boating accident were not wearing a life jacket.
8.    Take a Boating Safety Education course. Many states offer online boating courses. Click here to find an online boater education course accepted by your state.
9.    Tell someone where you are going and when you’ll be back. File a float plan and make sure someone knows the details of your trip.
10.   Carry all required boating safety equipment and have a method of communication, such as VHF radios and personal locator beacons, that works when wet.

For more information on BUI and the impacts of alcohol use on the water visit http://www.operationdrywater.org. For more resources and details on boating safety tips visit https://www.nasbla.org/operationdrywater/boaters/safety-tips.

Categories: Alabama News, Georgia News