The Georgia Department of Natural Resources is warning Georgia boaters to stay sober this weekend, as officers take to the waters nationwide for an extra push to enforce boating laws.
In a press release from the DNR Wildlife Resource Division, authorities warn of this weekend’s annual Operation Dry Water campaign. This is an attempt to focus on enforcing boating under the influence laws and educating boaters on the risks of operating a boat while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. Operation Dry Water runs from June 22-24.
“Alcohol can impair a boater’s judgment, balance, vision and reaction time,” Lt. Col. Jeff Weaver, of DNR WRD law enforcement, warned in the release. “Combined with the sun, wind, noise and motion of a boat and the fact that boating is not an activity you do every day, you can quickly run into a dangerous situation.”
Despite the fact that it is against the law nationwide for a person to operate a recreational vessel with an unlawful blood alcohol concentration (.10 or higher in Georgia), officials from the DNR warn that BUI continues to be a problem, not only in Georgia, but in the U.S.. It accounts nationwide for a disproportional number of on the water deaths.
This warning comes on the heels ofon Lake Lanier and as officials continue the , one of the victims of the accident. of Cumming, is charged with BUI in that incident.
DNR officials said alcohol was a contributing factor in just 6 percent of boating accidents overall, but figured in 16 percent of boating fatalities nationwide. Conservation rangers in Georgia have made 63 arrests so far this year on state lakes and waterways. A total of 168 arrests were made in 2011.
Operation Dry Water is a multi-agency, education and enforcement initiative launched by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) in 2009 in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard. The program puts thousands of local, state and federal marine law enforcement officers on the water in advance of the Fourth of July to give BUI enforcement high visibility before a holiday known for drinking and boating – and, officials say, more deadly accidents.
"We want boaters to know the risks of drinking and boating,” John Fetterman, law enforcement director for NASBLA and national spokesperson for Operation Dry Water said in the release. “These are needless deaths in a recreational activity that is safe and enjoyable when people stay alert and follow the rules.”
Officers from all 56 U.S. states, trusts and territories are expected to participate in Operation Dry Water 2012, educating the public and being on the lookout for boat operators whose blood alcohol concentration exceeds their state’s limit.