Recreational boating fatalities last year jumped to their highest levels since 1998 and boating under the influence (BUI) was the leading contributing factor, according to the U.S. Coast Guard's report, 2011 Recreational Boating Statistics.
The report comes just weeks before the Skamania County Sheriff's Office participates in the national Operation Dry Water 2012 campaign. This nationwide campaign focuses on enforcement of BUI laws and educating all boaters to the risks of operating a boat under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
Officers will be out in force June 22, 23 and 24 looking for boat operators whose blood alcohol content (BAC) exceeds the Washington State limit of .08. Impaired boaters may expect penalties that include fines and jail time.
"We intend to enforce the laws associated with boating under the influence and to educate as many boaters as possible about the dangers of the same," stated Sheriff Dave Brown.
According to the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), boating under the influence of alcohol and drugs continues to be a major problem in the United States. Boat operators or even passengers with a blood alcohol concentration above the legal limit run a significantly increased risk of being involved in a fatal boating accident.
According to the Coast Guard's report, alcohol was a contributing factor in 19 percent of boating fatalities in the U.S. last year. Between 2007 and 2011, the Washington State Parks Boating Safety Programs reported at least 30 people were killed in boating accidents where alcohol was a contributing factor.
"When impaired by alcohol, boating accidents are more probable and more deadly for both passengers and boat operators, many of whom capsize their vessel or simply fall overboard," Brown said.
Operation Dry Water (ODW) was launched in 2009 by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard. The campaign puts thousands of local, state and federal marine law enforcement officers on the water nationwide prior to the July 4th holiday to give BUI enforcement high visibility during the peak boating season.
Operation Dry Water 2012 is a joint program of the Skamania County Sheriff's Office, the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Washington State Parks and Recreation Boating Programs, and local law enforcement officers from around the state.