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June 27, 2014

DNR promotes Operation Dry Water

MILLEDGEVILLE — The Department of Natural Resources is gearing up for the upcoming busy weekend on the water by participating in Operation Dry Water.

Operation Dry Water is a national awareness and enforcement campaign focused on reducing the number of alcohol and drug-related accidents and fatalities while traveling on the water. It is coordinated by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA), in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard as well as local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.

Every year, the national awareness initiative takes place during one of the busiest weekends for activity on the water--the weekend before Fourth of July.

This year, the campaign runs through Sunday, with heightened enforcement of boating under the influence laws.

In 2013,  513 law enforcement agencies participated in Operation Dry Water.

"The main goal is for everyone to be safe out on the water by having someone sober operating the boat at all times," said DNR Ranger Matthew Johnson.

If a boat operator is BUI, the voyage may be terminated, the boat may be impounded, and the operator may be arrested.

Operating a boat with a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher is against federal law, added Johnson, and he strongly encourages having a designated driver in the boat.

"We are dedicated to keeping boaters safe on our waters," Johnson said. "Boating is a safe and enjoyable recreation when people stay alert and follow the rules."

BUI laws pertain to all vessels including canoes, rowboats, and large ships.

Johnson makes the point that impairment for boaters is more dangerous than for motorists.

"Most people are under the misconception that operating a boat while intoxicated is easier than driving, but that's the complete opposite."

He says impairment can be even more dangerous for boaters than for drivers because most boaters have less experience and confidence operating a boat than they do driving a car.

DNR officials also encourage boaters to wear life jackets when out on the water to ensure safety for everyone on the vessel.

"We are always pushing for folks to wear life jackets and to remember that children under the age of 13 must wear one whenever the boat is in motion."

Proper boat operation instruction is a significant factor in avoiding and surviving accidents, he added.

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