OCEAN CITY- With summer hitting its stride and activities on and around the water in Maryland picking up, local, state and federal law enforcement agencies are stepping up drinking and boating patrols as part of national initiative against the often deadly practice.
All weekend, starting today through Sunday, the Maryland Natural Resources Police (NRP) will participate in Operation Dry Water, a nationally-coordinated program to raise awareness about the dangerous use of alcohol in a boating environment. During this weekend, detection and enforcement of boating under the influence will be a nation-wide priority.
“Our main focus with Operation Dry Water is to prevent accidents and fatalities while making our waterways safer and more enjoyable for all boaters,” said NRP Colonel George F. Johnson IV.
The NRP is just one agency that will be out on the water this weekend seeking offenders. The U.S. Coast Guard will be searching for boat operators whose blood alcohol content exceeds the national limit of .08 percent. Boating under the influence is illegal in all 50 states and territories. Impaired boaters found to be boating under the influence can expect penalties to be severe. Penalties may include fines, jail and loss of boating or even driving privileges.
“Boating under the influence is not just illegal, it’s deadly,” said Rear Adm. William “Dean” Lee, Coast Guard 5th District commander. “Nearly a fifth of all recreational boating accidents involve alcohol, and the Coast Guard and our partner agencies will be working throughout the weekend to ensure people are boating safely and responsibly.”
Operation Dry Water is organized by the National Association of State Boating Law Enforcement Administrators. The NRP, the United States Coast Guard and local law enforcement agencies will utilize increased personnel to patrol during the weekend. Officers will be targeting high-accident areas and areas where boating and alcohol have been a problem in the past, but patrols will take place in every part of the state.
The most recent statistics from 2009 showed alcohol use was a contributing factor in 16 percent of boating fatalities nationwide. In Maryland during 2010, alcohol and illegal drug use were a contributing factor in eight percent of the 219 reportable boating accidents. Also, NRP placed 169 alcohol-related charges against boaters in 2010. The maximum penalty for operating a vessel while impaired by alcohol is a $1,000 fine and a year in jail for the first offense.
NRP would like to remind citizens that the sun, wind and water can cause fatigue in boaters. Alcohol use magnifies this fatigue, impairs judgment and can lead to accidents and death. NRP reminds boaters to boat safe, boat smart and boat sober.