Drinking and boating to be targeted

Published 6:20 pm Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Local checks part of nationwide effort

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

Boaters this weekend should be aware that law enforcement agencies will be out enforcing laws against drinking while boating. 

The Pagan and James rivers, Jones Creek and other local waterways will be part of Operation Dry Water, a national awareness and enforcement campaign to reduce the number of drug-and-alcohol fatalities on the water, said Sgt. Brandon Woodruff with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. 

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This year, Operation Dry Water is scheduled for July 5-7. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Operation Dry Water, ongoing since 2009, is held around July 4, a holiday known for increased boaters on the water when alcohol use is prevalent, according to the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators.

Alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents. Where the primary cause was known, it was listed as the leading factor in 19 percent of deaths, according to the U.S. Coast Guard recreational boating statistics for 2017.

Boating under the influence is a Class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia and penalties are similar to a DUI. While a person charged with a BUI may lose his or her boating privilege, it does not affect the person’s driver’s license or ability to drive a vehicle, said Woodruff. 

Woodruff said the DGIF conservation police need probable cause to pull a boat over, however, the agency plans to patrol during the day and evening and there will be checkpoints around the state. 

“They want a visual deterrence,” said Woodruff.

The checkpoints will be similar to those conducted by law enforcement officers on the road for DUI’s, he said. 

Operation Dry Water is coordinated nationally by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators and is produced under a grant from the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund administered by the U.S. Coast Guard.  {/mprestriction}