Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Enforcement of boating under the influence’ laws to intensify weekend of June 26-28

Wisconsin to participate in
"Operation Dry Water" nationwide effort

MADISON -- Recreational boaters should think twice before drinking a cold beer the weekend of June 26-28 as Department of Natural Resources conservation wardens and municipal boat patrol officers plan to step up enforcement of impaired operator laws as part of a national coordinated effort known as “Operation Dry Water.”

Wardens and patrol officers will be out in force looking for boat operators whose blood alcohol content exceeds the state limit of 0.08 percent. Boater education also will be part of the national effort in addition to the increased patrols.

“We want people to be safe and have fun while boating,” said Todd Schaller, DNR Recreation Enforcement and Education Section Chief, of the overall goal of the national effort. “But alcohol use has become the leading contributing factor in fatal recreational boating accidents. We recommend boaters avoid drinking alcoholic beverages at all times. We will have zero tolerance for anyone found operating a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs on our waters.”

Schaller said alcohol can impair a boater’s judgment, balance, vision and reaction time, and can increase fatigue and susceptibility to the effects of cold-water immersion. Sun, wind, noise, vibration and motion – “stressors” common to the boating environment – intensify the side effects of alcohol, drugs and some prescription medications. In 2008, alcohol and drug use were involved in 35 percent of the boating fatalities in Wisconsin.

Impaired boaters caught this weekend can expect penalties to be severe. They will include fines, jail and possible impoundment of boats.

“There will be arrests this weekend, and some boaters will face the consequences of boating under the influence,” Schaller said. “But we'd much rather arrest someone than to have to tell their friends and family they're never coming back.”

Operation Dry Water is a joint program of the Department of Natural Resources, municipal patrols, the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA), the U.S. Coast Guard. More information is available at [www.operationdrywater.org] and on the boating safety pages of the DNR Web site.

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