July 1, 2024

PHOENIX — The Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) and partner agencies will be patrolling Arizona’s waterways over the Fourth of July holiday weekend to provide heightened enforcement and awareness about the dangers of drinking alcohol while boating. 

Once again, AZGFD will be participating in “Operation Dry Water,” a national boating under the influence awareness and enforcement campaign. The goal is to reduce the number of alcohol and/or drug-related fatalities and accidents by spreading this important message to the public: Drinking and boating is a potentially deadly combination. 

“Our top priority is to create a safe environment for everyone who is out enjoying Arizona’s waterways,” said Major Danny Rodriguez, watercraft law enforcement programs coordinator/boating law administrator. “If alcohol is being consumed on your boat, always designate a sober operator.” 

During last year’s Operation Dry Water campaign, almost 500 local, state, and federal agencies contacted 302,146 boaters and made 717 arrests nationwide for boating under the influence. 

“It’s no different from driving a car on the highway; the operator is responsible for everyone on board the boat,” Rodriguez said. 

While the main focus of the campaign is geared toward those who operate a boat under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, officers may also give warnings or write citations for other violations, including not having proper safety equipment, failing to slow down in no-wake zones, operating too close to another vessel, and riding on areas of a vessel that are not allowed, such as the bow or transom. 

Arizona state law requires that children 12 and under must wear a life jacket at all times while the boat is underway, and there must be one life jacket on board for every passenger. In addition, a throwable flotation device, usually a cushion with handles or a ring buoy, is required for all watercraft longer than 16 feet (except for canoes and kayaks).

Operation Dry Water was launched in 2009 by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard. The initiative is credited with removing 6,869 impaired operators from the nation’s waterways. 

AZGFD has been an Operation Dry Water partner since the beginning. “Any outreach that helps bring awareness to prevent fatalities and injuries in Arizona is a valuable investment of our time and resources,” Rodriguez said. 

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