Increased boat patrols scheduled for this weekend

Boats sail Buzzards Bay off the coast of Fort Taber, New Bedford, Mass., June 4, 2015. (Madeleine Wright, WPRI-TV)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Boaters out on the water for the holiday weekend will have some company.

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management announced its Division of Law Enforcement will conduct increased patrols from Friday through Sunday and will be targeting boaters under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

It’s part of the annual Operation Dry Water Campaign, which is a national crackdown on boating under the influence.

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“It is our job as law enforcement officers to identify and remove drunk or impaired boaters from the water – so that everyone can continue to have an enjoyable and safe boating experience,” said Lt. Steven Criscione, boating safety coordinator for DEM’s Division of Law Enforcement. “The effects of impairment on the water can be severe. Boaters tend to have far less experience and confidence operating a boat versus an automobile, and stressors common to boating – sun, wind, noise, vibration, and motion – can intensify the effects of drugs and alcohol.”

Under Rhode Island law, the limit (.08), penalties, and testing standards for boating under the influence are the same as driving under the influence.

“Operating a boat under the influence has impacts both on the water and off,” continued Criscione. “Many boaters trailer their boats. An intoxicated boater, if undetected, could eventually get behind the wheel of a car and onto our highways – putting countless people at risk. Regardless of whether you personally boat or not, we all have the potential to be impacted by an impaired boater.”

During its 2016 campaign, the DEM said officers boarded 61 vessels, issued 36 warnings and citations for boating-related equipment, operation, and other violations, and made three arrests.