Last year, 17 people died from boating accidents related to alcohol and drug use in Florida.
“Alcohol- and drug-related boating accidents are preventable,” said Capt. Tom Shipp, of the FWC’s Boating and Waterways Section. “Even one death is too many.”
That is why law enforcement agencies around the state and country are participating in “Operation Dry Water” this weekend. This nationwide public-education effort is designed to prevent alcohol-related accidents and fatalities. FWC officers, along with local law enforcement and the U.S. Coast Guard, will crack down on boating under the influence (BUI) violations.
“While our officers always look for BUIs,” Shipp said, “this weekend, they are making a special effort to stop this dangerous activity.”
2009 was the inaugural year for this effort, and the program’s effectiveness made repeating it worthwhile. Last year, agencies in all 50 states and six U.S. territories participated, interacting with more than 60,000 boaters and taking 322 impaired operators off the water before they could kill or injure themselves or someone else. The FWC alone arrested 12 boaters for BUI.
“We know that increased officer effort reduces boating accidents and saves lives. Saving lives is what ‘Operation Dry Water’ is really all about,” Shipp said.
The FWC reminds boaters to be careful this weekend. Boaters who have had too much to drink or who are impaired by drugs are a great danger to the boating public.
“Being under the influence of alcohol or drugs impairs a boat operator’s vision and reaction time,” Shipp said. “Sun, wind, fatigue and other conditions can intensify the effects alcohol or drugs have on a boater.”
Intoxicated boaters are also susceptible to injuries or falling overboard because of impaired coordination and balance.
“If you’re caught boating under the influence, you may be fined and jailed, your boat may seized, and you could lose your boating privileges,” Shipp said. “But most importantly, you are risking your life, the lives of your passengers and the lives of other people out on the water.”
The FWC reminds boaters that they are responsible for making decisions that keep themselves and others safe.
“We want everyone to have a great time and stay safe on the water,” Shipp said. “Carelessly choosing to operate a boat while impaired is a decision that can result in a tragic ending to an otherwise wonderful day on the water.”
For more information, please visit www.operationdrywater.org or MyFWC.com/Boating.
Katie Purcell, 850-459-6585