The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office will join with other agencies across the state and country for "Operation Dry Water," a nationally coordinated effort that focuses on boating-under-the-influence …
The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office will join with other agencies across the state and country for "Operation Dry Water," a nationally coordinated effort that focuses on boating-under-the-influence (BUI) awareness and enforcement.
Boaters will notice an increase in patrols on fresh and marine waters across Washington state from Friday, July 3 through Sunday, July 5.
The sheriff's office will be using its marine unit to patrol local waters.
"Basically, the operation just entails making sure people are boating safe to prevent injuries and fatalities on the water," said Sgt. Brandon Przygocki of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office.
The Coast Guard will also ramp up patrols and be on the lookout for BUI offenders.
In Washington state, it is illegal to use any substance that impairs a person’s ability to operate a boat. The law applies to all boats, including kayaks, canoes, rowboats and inflatable fishing rafts.
State law allows law enforcement officers to require boaters suspected of operating a boat while intoxicated to submit to a breath or blood test.
Piloting a recreational vessel with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher is against federal and state law.
Refusing to submit to a test is a civil infraction with a maximum fine of $2,050.
The penalty for operating a boat under the influence is a gross misdemeanor punishable by a maximum fine of $5,000 and 364 days in jail.
Additionally, a BUI is considered a prior offense if there are later convictions for driving under the influence.
The Coast Guard has warned that boaters caught operating under the influence will have their voyage terminated and their vessel impounded.
The Fourth of July holiday weekend is a time known for increased boaters on the water where alcohol use is prevalent, as are subsequent accidents and fatalities, according to the Coast Guard.
Boating under the influence has become the leading contributing factor in fatal recreational boating accidents, Coast Guard officials noted. Alcohol can impair a boater’s judgment, balance, vision, and reaction time as well as increase fatigue and susceptibility to the effects of cold-water immersion.
In 2019, a total of 736 local, state and federal agencies participated in the operation. Over the three-day weekend, law enforcement contacted 271,286 boaters, made 563 BUI arrests, and issued 34,976 citations and warnings for safety violations.