Delaware to participate in Operation Dry Water June 28-30
to prevent alcohol-related boating accidents and save lives
DOVER (June 26, 2013) – DNREC’s Division of Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Section today announced that during the weekend of June 28 through 30, Delaware will again participate in Operation Dry Water, an annual nationwide enforcement and education event aimed at preventing alcohol and drug-related boating accidents and fatalities. Over the weekend before the 4th of July holiday, the Enforcement Section will have an increased presence along Delaware’s waterways to educate boaters and crack down on operators whose blood alcohol level exceeds the state and federal limit of 0.08 percent.
“Delaware consistently has one of the lowest boating accident rates in the country, and we want to keep it that way. Drinking and boating don’t mix, and can lead to accidents that put operators, their passengers and other boaters at risk,” said Division of Fish and Wildlife Director David Saveikis. “During Operation Dry Water, our Enforcement agents will be increasing patrols, checking boaters for intoxication, and providing information on the dangers of operating under the influence.”
According to national statistics released by the U.S. Coast Guard, alcohol use is a leading contributing factor to fatal boating accidents. Of the 4,515 boating accidents on the nation’s waterways last year, 17 percent were caused by alcohol or drug intoxication. Nearly 300 accidents in 2012 involved alcohol use and resulted in 109 deaths and more than 200 injuries.
With 13 boating-related accidents and two fatalities in 2012, Delaware’s accident rate is well below the national average. Recreational boating is a pastime enjoyed by thousands of Delawareans and visitors to our state, contributing more than $300 million a year to Delaware’s economy. More than 58,000 boats and watercraft are registered in Delaware.
Operation Dry Water is coordinated nationwide by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA), in partnership with state marine enforcement agencies and the U.S. Coast Guard. Over the three-day weekend last year, all 50 states and six U.S. Territories participated, resulting in 337 operating under the influence (OUI) arrests, and 4,819 citations and 9,695 warnings issued for safety violations.
During Operation Dry Water in 2012, Delaware’s agents made 785 contacts with boat operators and passengers and conducted 238 boardings while performing standard vessel safety checks and encouraging safe boating practices both in operations and required safety equipment. Four boat operators were arrested for operating under the influence (OUI).
“Again this year Delaware will be joining with the other 50 states in Operation Dry Water,” said Division of Fish and Wildlife Chief of Enforcement Chief James Graybeal, who is also past national president of NASBLA. “During Operation Dry Water weekend and every day, if you are behind the helm and under the influence, you will be arrested. We urge boat operators to stay sober, follow safe boating practices, and plan ahead to have a non-drinking designated boat operator aboard if alcohol is consumed.”
Just like driving a road vehicle, operating a boat with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent or higher is in violation of Delaware and federal laws. Boat operators at or above the limit will find their voyage terminated, will be arrested and may have their vessel impounded. Boat operators under the influence also can face fines and potential jail time.
DNREC’s Fish and Wildlife agents use a standardized field sobriety test to identify intoxicated boaters. The test, which can be administered while the boat is afloat, allows marine enforcement agents to test boaters in a seated position and apply a percentage of probability that the subject is impaired at 0.08 blood alcohol concentration or higher.
Despite dramatic increases in boating activity in Delaware, boating-related accidents and fatalities have decreased through the years. The decreases in fatalities are directly attributed to increased enforcement efforts, Delaware’s mandatory recreational boating safety education program, and the state law requiring children 12 years old and under to wear a life jacket while in a vessel and underway in Delaware waters. Since the inception of the child life jacket law, not a single child has died in a boating accident on Delaware waters as a result of drowning without a life jacket.
Under Delaware law, all persons born on or after Jan. 1, 1978 must successfully complete a boating safety course in order to operate a boat on Delaware waters.
“Since the Boating Safety program was established more than 30,000 individuals have been certified to operate a recreational vessel on Delaware’s waters,” said Sgt. Gregory Rhodes of DNREC’s Office of Boating Safety. “An educated boater is a safe boater. People who have successfully taken our boating safety course have been less likely to be involved in a boating accident.”
Delaware’s Office of Boating Safety and Education also provides volunteer instructors to private non-profit organizations, schools, clubs and the public to educate boaters on skills and seamanship, and to encourage them to be safe, knowledgeable and responsible. Courses are offered free of charge, including materials and educational aids.
For more information, please visit Delaware_Boating_Safety.