Operation Dry Water campaign focuses on impaired boating

Alcohol enforcement will be stepped up on the lakes for the up coming 4th of July period.

FRANKFORT, Ky. (June 29, 2023) – Conservation officers with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources will join law enforcement agencies across the nation for Operation Dry Water over the July 4th holiday weekend.

Operation Dry Water is a national campaign designed to educate the public about the dangers of boating under the influence (BUI). The campaign facilitates a national weekend of BUI detection and enforcement aimed at reducing the number alcohol- and drug-related incidents and fatalities around Independence Day each year, a holiday known for an increase in these types of occurrences.

Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Law Enforcement, the Kentucky State Police and local agencies will increase their presence around the state’s lakes and rivers Friday to Tuesday as a reminder not to boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

“Operation Dry Water is an opportunity to raise awareness about the dangers of impaired boating,” said Maj. Shane Carrier, assistant director of Law Enforcement for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “Our conservation officers will be extra vigilant in observing for those who exhibit impairment, especially those operating a boat while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.”

A law enacted in 2019 allows Kentucky conservation officers to make a boating under the influence arrest based on probable cause of operator intoxication when an accident has caused property damage or physical injury. Persons arrested for BUI may be subject to 24 hours detention for a first offense and 48 hours for a second offense.

“We want everyone to have an enjoyable time on the water over the holiday weekend, but please be mindful about how you celebrate to help ensure everyone’s safety,” Carrier said. “Conservation officers will be offering reminders about other safe boating practices like wearing a life jacket and taking a boater education course.”

Alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in boating accidents and fatalities, according to the U.S. Coast Guard’s 2022 Recreational Boating Statistics report.

Alcohol and drugs can affect judgment, balance, vision and reaction time for boat operators and passengers alike. They also can increase fatigue. Sun, wind, noise, vibration and motion may intensify the side effects of alcohol, drugs and some medications.

Boaters can learn more about boating laws in the Kentucky Fishing and Boating Guide, the regulations summary booklet, available online at fw.ky.gov and wherever licenses are sold, or at Operation Dry Water.

Kentucky Fish and Wildlife also urges all boaters to complete a state-approved Boater Safety Course before taking a vessel out on the water. These courses provide necessary training in boating laws, required safety equipment, and many essentials of boat operation including “rules of the road.” Successful completion helps prevent accidents and boating law violations, both of which may be costly or even tragic.

Operation Dry Water is an annual effort coordinated by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA), headquartered in Lexington, Kentucky, in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard and law enforcement agencies. More than 600 law enforcement agencies across the country, including nearly 8,000 officers, participated last year, resulting in 350,472 boater contacts and 794 BUI arrests over the course of the holiday weekend.

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