Waterways Conservation Officers from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission are gearing up to participate in Operation Dry Water – the nation’s boating under the influence (BUI) awareness and enforcement campaign.
The event will take place nationwide this weekend.
“Boating under the influence is no different than driving a car after someone’s been drinking,” said Colonel Corey Britcher, director of the PFBC Bureau of Law Enforcement. “Alcohol impairs an individual’s ability to operate a boat safely and puts the driver, his passengers and others on the water at risk.”
“Boating is a fun summertime activity,” he added. “We’re asking all boaters to help keep it that way by boating sober.”
Last year across the state, 17 individuals died in boating accidents. Alcohol was a contributing factor in two of the cases.
So far this year, PFBC waterways conservation officers have arrested 24 individuals for boating under the influence. They arrested 90 individuals in 2013; 60 individuals in 2012; 62 in 2011; and 65 in 2010.
Filtered by region, WCOs in 2013 arrested the following number of individuals for BUI:
• 11 in Northwest Region (Counties – Butler, Clarion, Crawford, Erie, Forest, Lawrence, Mercer, Venango, Warren)
• 12 in Southwest Region (Counties - Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Cambria, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Somerset, Washington, Westmoreland)
• 3 in Northcentral Region (Counties - Cameron, Centre, Clearfield, Clinton, Elk, Jefferson, Lycoming, McKean, Montour, Northumberland, Potter, Snyder, Tioga, Union)
• 34 in Southcentral Region (Counties - Adams, Bedford, Blair, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Fulton, Huntingdon, Juniata, Lebanon, Mifflin, Perry, York)
• 15 in Northeast Region (Counties - Bradford, Carbon, Columbia, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Monroe, Pike, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Wayne, Wyoming)
• 15 in Southeast Region (Counties - Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lancaster, Lehigh, Montgomery, Northampton, Philadelphia, Schuylkill)
In 2009, the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA), in partnership with the United States Coast Guard, launched Operation Dry Water to help draw public attention to the dangers of boating under the influence of alcohol and drugs.
During the three-day Operation Dry Water weekend, law enforcement officers at local, state and federal levels will be on heightened alert for those violating boating under the influence laws. In 2013, officers contacted 144,044 recreational boaters and made 290 BUI arrests during the three-day weekend.
“Many boaters may not know that the threshold for BUI is the same as with motor vehicles – 0.08 percent,” added Britcher. “Fish and Boat officers regularly patrol waterways and will have an increased presence this weekend and around the upcoming July 4 holiday.”
According to the 2013 U.S. Coast Guard Recreational Boating Statistics, from 2009 to 2013 there has been a 37 percent decrease in the number of recreational boater deaths where alcohol use was listed as the known primary contributing factor. From 2012 to 2013, there was a 31 percent decrease in the number of alcohol- related recreational boater deaths – the most significant decrease in the past five years.
If convicted of boating under the influence, operators could face fines and jail time.
For more information on Operation Dry Water, please visit operationdrywater.org.