Operation Dry Water focuses on boating sober

Operation Dry Water. It’s a name that catches your attention, makes you think — which is a good thing.

Because it’s aimed at getting people to think twice about mixing boating and alcohol.

This weekend leading up to the Fourth of July holiday, Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officers will focus on keeping boaters safe through heightened awareness and enforcement of “boating under the influence” laws.

The Operation Dry Water campaign is done in coordination with the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, the U.S. Coast Guard and other partners. The annual campaign starts before the holiday, when more boaters take to the water and alcohol use increases.

“The best way to safely enjoy a day on the water is to avoid alcohol,” said Lt. Tom Wanless, Michigan’s boating law administrator. “Using alcohol impairs reaction time, balance and judgment. Please don’t put yourself and others at risk. Be smart and stay sober when boating.”

In Michigan, a person operating a motorboat while under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance, or having a blood-alcohol content of .08 grams or more, can be charged with a misdemeanor punishable by fines up to $500, community service and up to 93 days in jail. It also can result in loss of boating privileges for at least one year.

If a person is killed or injured due to a driver operating a boat while under the influence, the driver could be charged with a felony, punishable by fines up to $10,000 and up to 15 years in prison.

Boaters can do their part by:

•Boating sober. Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in recreational boater deaths. The effects of alcohol and certain medications are increased on the water due to added stress factors such as the sun, heat, wind, wave motion and engine noise.

•Wearing life jackets. Nearly 85 percent of drowning victims in the U.S. were not wearing life jackets.

•Taking boating safety courses. The DNR recommends a safety course for anyone who plans to use a boat or personal watercraft. Convenient, affordable classes are offered at locations throughout the state and online.

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