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Colorado State Parks Joins Crackdown on Alcohol Impaired Boaters
6/21/2011
Credit:
Colorado State Parks Press Release
LITTLETON, Colo. – Marine law enforcement officers from Colorado State Parks will participate in “Operation Dry Water” and will be out in force June 24 – 26 looking for boaters whose blood alcohol content exceeds the state limit of .08 %. “Operation Dry Water,” a national campaign, will include increased patrols and checkpoints as well as boater education and outreach. Impaired boaters can expect penalties to be severe. In Colorado, boaters can be fined, jailed and lose boating privileges.

“We intend to stop intoxicated boaters and to educate as many boaters as possible about the hazards of Boating Under the Influence (BUI),” says Kris Wahlers, an investigator with Colorado State Parks. Gov. John W. Hickenlooper officially declared June 24 – 26 as “Operation Dry Water” in Colorado and called upon all citizens and agencies to promote awareness of the danger of boating under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.

A boat operator with a blood alcohol concentration above the legal limit runs a significantly increased risk of being involved in a boating accident. When the boat operator is impaired by alcohol, boating accidents are more likely and more deadly for both passengers and boat operators, many of whom capsize their vessel or fall overboard.

BUI is a primary contributing factor in nearly one-fifth of boating fatalities nationwide and Colorado has gotten tougher in recent years in enforcing laws against this high-risk behavior. Boaters found operating a recreational vessel with a blood alcohol concentration of .08% or higher will find their voyage terminated and will have their vessel impounded.

“The combination of our responsible boat operators and increased enforcement has dropped Colorado’s BUI fatality rate well below the national average,” said Wahlers. “But one in eight is still entirely too many when prevention is so simple.”

The inherent danger of drinking and boating is also understood by the leaders of the state, including Gov. Hickenlooper.

“Having this level of support from our Governor is an outstanding gesture of his commitment to public safety in the state” said Wahlers.

“Operation Dry Water,” a multi-agency, education and enforcement initiative launched by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) in 2009 in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard, puts thousands of local, state and federal marine law enforcement officers on the water nationwide the last weekend in June to give BUI enforcement high visibility during the peak boating season.

"There will be arrests this weekend, and some boaters will face the consequences of boating under the influence," said Wahlers. "We want recreational boaters to enjoy themselves, but there will be zero tolerance for BUI.”

“Operation Dry Water” is a joint program of Colorado State Parks, the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, the U.S. Coast Guard and other state & county partners. For more information, visit www.operationdrywater.org.