DEM increasing boating patrols for holiday weekend

(Photo from U.S. Coast Guard)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Ahead of the Fourth of July holiday weekend, the Department of Environmental Management, the Coast Guard and other groups are teaming up to reduce impaired boating.

“Operation Dry Water” is a nationwide campaign that aims to crack down on boaters who drink.

“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 impact of being intoxicated or impaired at a boat’s tiller can be severe, Criscione said. “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.”

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, alcohol is the leading cause of boating-related deaths, accounting for 15 percent of fatalities. The legal limit for blood alcohol levels is .08, the same as for driving a vehicle.

“Operating a boat under the influence has impacts, both on the water and off,” Criscione said.  “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 the 2016 Operation Dry Water campaign, DEM officials boarded 61 boats and issued 36 warnings and citations.