Operation Dry Water, coordinated by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, is a national effort by law enforcement to reduce Boating Under the Influence (BUI), that is, boaters operating their vessels while under the influence of alcohol or other substances that can impair safe operation. According to U.S. Coast Guard statistics for recreational boating in 2014, alcohol is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents, contributing to about 21 percent of fatalities nationwide in 2014 in cases where the cause of the accident was known. In Virginia (as in other states), it’s illegal to operate a boat with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or more.
Each summer on the weekend before July 4th, law-enforcement agencies participating in Operation Dry Water put special focus on BUI. In 2016, on June 24-26, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) conservation police offices, boating law enforcement officials in several Virginia localities, and Coast Guard officials at Virginia stations will join officials in other states in having increased patrolling for BUI. (Participating agencies are listed by state and territory at this link: http://www.operationdrywater.org/agencies.)
According a June 20, 2016, statement by the VDGIF (available in the department’s Outdoor Report, online at this link), “environmental ‘stressors’ associated with boating, such as the rocking of the boat, sun, wind, and noise, all intensify the effect of alcohol on a person while boating. Because of this, a boater is likely to become impaired more quickly on a boat than on land. Both operators and passengers increase their chances of slips, falls overboard or becoming involved in a serious boating accident by consuming alcohol while boating. In Virginia, boaters whose blood alcohol content (BAC) level exceeds the state limit of [.08] can be arrested for BUI and face serious penalties upon conviction including a fine of up to $2,500 and incarceration for a period up to 12 months. Additionally, the operator may lose his privilege to operate a boat for one year on a first offense and up to three years for any subsequent offense. DGIF supports the Operation Dry Water message which encourages boaters to never boat under the influence and enjoy their time on the water responsibly.”
More information on the Operation Dry Water is available from the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, online at http://operationdrywater.org/. More information on boating and boating law in Virginia is available from the VDGIF, online at http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/boating/, or phone the central office in Richmond at (804) 367-1000; local VDGIF offices are also usually listed in the government pages of local phone directories.
For an audio take on Operation Dry Water, have a listen to Virginia Water Radio Episode 270, 6-15-15 (4 min./20); additional information and sources are given in the episode’s online show notes.