DGIF launching Operation Dry Water on July 5

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (DGIF) will be joining boating agencies across the United States who are teaming up to promote safe and responsible boating.

Virginia Conservation Police Officers will be out on the water in force, looking out for boaters who are under the influence.

Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in recreational boating deaths in the United States. In response, Operation Dry Water, July 5 – July 7, is the weekend of heightened enforcement of boating under the influence (BUI) laws. This is a part of a national coordinated effort to raise awareness about the dangers of BUI, and to reduce the number of accidents and deaths related to alcohol use on our waterways.

“Providing a safe environment for all to enjoy the public waters of Virginia is a top priority for Virginia’s Conservation Police Officers (CPOs). We ask that if boaters want to include alcohol as part of their weekend that they designate an operator before they get on the water. Our CPOs are highly trained in detecting impaired operators and if they are encountered, they will be arrested and removed from the water to prevent accidents and to save lives,” said Major Scott Naff, Law Enforcement Assistant Chief of Operations for DGIF.

Major Naff also stresses the importance of not only having personal floatation devices (PFDs or life-jackets) of the proper size and fit for each passenger on the boat, but actually wearing them. There have been 12 boating related drownings so far in 2019 (the same number as all of 2018) and these could have all been prevented if PFDs had been worn. Major Naff stated, “If you do not have the required PFDs on your motorboat, kayak, canoe, or paddleboard, our CPOs will issue you a ticket. Life-jackets save lives.”

Environmental “stressors” associated with boating, such as the rocking of the boat, sun, wind and noise, all intensify the effect of alcohol on a person while boating. Because of this, a boater is likely to become impaired more quickly on a boat than on land. Both operators and passengers increase their chances of slips, falls overboard or becoming involved in a serious boating accident by consuming alcohol while boating.

In Virginia, boaters whose blood alcohol content (BAC) level exceeds the state limit of [.08] can be arrested for BUI and face serious penalties upon conviction, including a fine of up to $2,500 and incarceration for a period up to 12 months. Additionally, the operator may lose his privilege to operate a boat for one year on a first offense and up to three years for any subsequent offense. DGIF supports the Operation Dry Water message, which encourages boaters to never boat under the influence and enjoy their time on the water responsibly. Virginia’s CPOs encourage those enjoying the water to report impaired and reckless boat operators at 800-237-5712 or Wildcrime@dgif.virginia.gov.

Since the start of the Operation Dry Water campaign in 2009, law enforcement officers across the nation have removed over 3,500 impaired operators from waterways during the annual three-day weekend. In 2018, 574 agencies from every state and territory took part in the Operation Dry Water weekend.

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