Boaters and paddlers on Wisconsin’s waters June 29-July 1 could see more state conservation wardens and local boat patrols on the water during the 10th annual national Operation Dry Water.
Lieutenant Adam Hanna of the Recreation Safety and Outdoor Skills section said wardens will be on the water with one mission: keep the waters safe for all to enjoy.
“We intend to stop and remove intoxicated boaters from our lakes and rivers. We also will take the time to educate as many boaters as possible about the hazards of boating under the influence,” Hanna said. “Alcohol is a leading factor in boating fatalities.”
Wisconsin defines impaired operators as having a blood alcohol level over the state limit of .08 percent. Officers will use the field sobriety test to determine the boater’s level of intoxication. There also is a breath test.
Hanna said a boat operator or passenger with a blood alcohol concentration above the legal limit runs a significantly increased risk of being involved in a boating accident. When impaired by alcohol, boating accidents are more likely and deadlier for both passengers and boat operators, many of whom capsize their vessel or simply fall overboard, he said.
As of Dec. 31, 2017, there were 624,882 registered vessels in Wisconsin that display the state vessel registration number, a two percent increase from 2016. The number includes 13,314 non-motorized vessels. In addition, approximately 335,000 non-motorized boats, and over 300,000 non-resident boats are using Wisconsin waterways each year.
Wisconsin reported 106 boating incidents resulting in 79 persons injured and 25 fatalities in 2017. While alcohol involvement increased from 2016, the number-one contributing factor in boat incidents is operator inexperience. Anyone who needs a safety class can visit the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, and search “Safety Education.”
Operation Dry Water, a multi-agency, education and enforcement initiative launched by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators in 2009 in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard, puts thousands of local, state and federal marine law enforcement officers on the water nationwide the last weekend in June to give BUI enforcement high visibility during the peak boating season.
“We want recreational boaters to enjoy themselves,” Hanna said. “But there will be zero tolerance for boating under the influence.”