LCSO plans ‘Operation Dry Water’
Deputies with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office Marine Unit will be on the waters of the Gulf of Mexico from Bonita Springs to Boca Grande and the Caloosahatchee River next weekend enforcing waterway laws. Joining other local, state and federal law enforcement marine interests, the Sheriff’s Office is partnering in a BUI enforcement and education campaign beginning Friday, June 24, and continuing through the Sunday, June 26, called Operation Dry Water.
Since 2009, the enforcement operation has been held in June, just prior to the Fourth of July holiday, aimed at reducing the number of alcohol and drug-related accidents and fatalities and fostering a stronger and more visible deterrent to alcohol and drug use on the water. Operation Dry Water is coordinated by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, in partnership with the states, the U.S. Coast Guard and other agencies.
According to the most recent U.S. Coast Guard statistics, boating under the influence is still the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents, with 16 percent of boating fatalities a direct result of alcohol or drug use. A boat operator or passenger with a blood alcohol concentration above the legal limit (.08) runs a significantly increased risk of being involved in a boating accident. When impaired by alcohol, boating accidents are more likely and more deadly for both passengers and boat operators, many of whom capsize their vessel or simply fall overboard.
Some of the effects to someone who drinks alcohol and operates a vessel include impaired judgment, balance, vision and reaction time. Sun, wind, noise, vibration and motion, referred to as common “stressors” in the boating environment, intensify the side effects of alcohol, drugs and some medications. Passengers need to be wary, too. Intoxication can lead to slips, falls overboard and other dangerous accidents. It’s also important to realize alcohol consumption can result in an inner ear disturbance which can make it impossible for a person suddenly immersed in water to distinguish up from down.
In 2010, all 50 dtates and six U.S. territories participated in Operation Dry Water. Over that three-day weekend there were 40,127 vessels and 66,472 boaters contacted by law enforcement, 322 BUI arrests made and 4,171 citations and 7,522 warnings issued for safety violations.
Safety should be of first importance to a boater. Remember to always wear your personal flotation device. In 2009, almost three-fourths of those who died in a boating accident drowned; 84 percent of those who drowned were not wearing a life jacket.
Citizens can help by letting law enforcement know if they observe careless boat operators and by their compliance with the rules of the water. If you see careless or reckless boat operators dial 9-1-1 on your cell phone or via radio on the VHF Channel 16 to report the event.