PHOENIX — Heavy law enforcement patrol efforts from the tri-state region will remove impaired boaters from the Colorado River at the end of the month as part of Operation Dry Water, a countrywide movement that has 48 states increasing OUI enforcement and awareness.
Operation Dry Water is a national campaign that was created to detect and remove impaired boaters from waters across the nation. It is organized by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) and the U.S. Coast Guard, and it will focus on enforcing Operating/Boating Under the Influence (OUI or BUI) laws June 26-28, 2009.
Among the many lakes and rivers across America, one of the most dangerous waterways west of the Mississippi is the Colorado River. As part of this national effort, Arizona, California and Nevada have joined forces to partake in interagency OUI checkpoints, saturation patrols, and outreach along the 233-mile system.
“The Colorado River system is a massive undertaking to enforce,” said Kevin Bergersen, Arizona’s boating law administrator. “However, it is important that every agency does their share since a significant number of alcohol-related accidents occur on the Colorado River,” he said. “These checkpoints remove dangerous boaters from the river enforcing the .08 Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) throughout, making it safe for everyone,” he said.
“We couldn’t do it without the help of local and state law enforcement agencies,” said Raynor Tsuneyoshi, California’s boating law administrator. “Our partnership with Arizona, Nevada and the counties, including the support of the U.S. Coast Guard, enables us to cover more territory making the river much safer.”
The primary purpose of the operation is to detect boat operators who are under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs and to provide boating safety education and outreach to all boaters contacted as part of this effort.
“Operation Dry Water is a national coalition of watercraft enforcement agencies banding together to provide enforcement and public interaction that will expand awareness about OUI and its consequences,” said Bergersen “The penalties of watercraft operation and/or driving a vehicle while impaired are almost the same in the state of Arizona, which many people do not know,” he said.
Nevada’s Boating Law Administrator David Pfiffner agrees. “There are many factors that boaters do not take into consideration when drinking while boating,” he said. “ The heat, wind, noise, vibration and motion – ‘stressors’ common to the boating environment – intensify the side effects of alcohol, drugs, and some medications,” Pfiffner said. “They impair a boater's judgment, balance, vision and reaction time.”
Operation Dry Water at a national level is meant to promote awareness about local alcohol and boating laws. Tsuneyoshi advised that it is preferential to promote awareness and responsibility rather than arrest violators. However, “the reality is, for their safety and the safety of others, if you choose to drink and then operate a boat at or above the legal .08 limit, you will go to jail,” he said.
The Boating Law Administrators from the three states want people to boat responsibly every time boaters hit the water and not just during the Operation Dry Water weekend enforcement. They warn that penalties include large fines and jail time.
To find out more about Operation Dry Water, please visit www.nasbla.org or www.uscgboating.org. For boating safety information for the tri-state area, please visit www.boatcoloradoriver.com.
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Note to media: Reporters may set up interviews using the state contacts listed above. High resolution photos of previous checkpoints are available. More details about boating safety along the Colorado River can be obtained at www.boatcoloradoriver.com.