MILLEDGEVILLE — With boating under the influence (BUI) continuing to be a major factor in accidents and deaths on national waterways, thousands of officers with local, state and federal agencies will again team up for Operation Dry Water (ODW) this weekend in a coordinated effort to providing heightened enforcement and awareness about the dangers of BUI.
Occurring just before the Fourth of July, a holiday known for drinking and boating, ODW is a nationwide education and enforcement initiative launched by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard.
Officers from all states, trusts and territories are expected to participate by educating the public and providing heightened BUI enforcement for the safety of those operating a vessel as well as other boaters on the water.
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division will join ODW this weekend.
Although the state recently lowered the permitted boating blood alcohol concentration (BAC) from .10 to .08 for a BUI conviction, the problem persists, according to DNR Cpl. Josh Copelan.
There were 13 BUI arrests on Lake Sinclair during 2012. Copelan said nine arrests have already occurred this year.
The new law only affected a few cases.
“One or two have been below the previous level. We are still seeing over .10,” Copelan said. “You try to get the word out and hope people take in consideration how alcohol can affect your ability to operate safely.”
Educating the water recreational public that no boat’s driver should drink any alcohol has been difficult to say the least.
Through the ODW and following Fourth of July, DNR rangers will concentrate patrols on Lake Sinclair areas notorious for BUI arrests.
“We’ll let everybody know we want you to have a good time and don’t mind if you drink, but we just want a safe, sober driver behind that wheel,” Copelan said.
Since the launch of ODW in 2009, the percentage of boating fatalities with alcohol listed as a contributing factor has decreased by 2 percent in the United States though BUI still accounts for a disproportional number of on-the-water deaths. In 2011, alcohol was a contributing factor in just 8 percent of boating accidents overall, but figured in 17 percent of boating fatalities, according to U.S. Coast Guard Statistics.
From 2009 to 2012, more than 1,200 BUI operators have been removed from the water, and a law enforcement officer has contacted over 313,500 boaters during the Operation Dry Water weekends.
The local DNR outfits look to maintain a consistent presence during the operation this weekend through a crowded July Fourth.
“We’ll be out there doing our job and making sure everybody is safe,” Copelan said.
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