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Operation Dry Water targets boating under the influence of alcohol on Arizona waterways

Posted June 26, 2018

For the tenth year, AZGFD will participate in the national awareness campaign

Boating while under the influence of alcohol continues to be a major factor in recreational boating deaths and accidents in Arizona and across the United States. In fact, the U.S. Coast Guard reported that alcohol was the top contributing factor in fatal boating accidents last year. As part of the effort to bring attention to the importance of always having a sober operator when on the water, the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) is participating in Operation Dry Water, a national awareness and enforcement campaign focused on sober boating.

For the tenth year, AZGFD and its partner agencies will be on the water providing heightened enforcement and awareness about the dangers of drinking alcohol while boating June 29 through July 1 in advance of the Fourth of July. The goal is to reduce the number of alcohol and/or drug-related fatalities and accidents, and spread this important message to the public during a time that is known for drinking and boating — a potentially deadly combination.

“Our No. 1 priority is to create a safe environment for everyone who is out enjoying Arizona’s waterways,” said Tim Baumgarten, AZGFD’s boating law administrator. “If alcohol is being consumed on your boat, always designate a sober operator. It’s no different from driving a car on the highway; the operator is responsible for everyone onboard.”

Although the legal limit for operating a boat in Arizona is a .08 blood-alcohol concentration, an operator is in violation of the law and may be prosecuted for operating a watercraft while impaired to the slightest degree by alcohol and/or drugs.

During last year’s Operation Dry Water campaign, AZGFD officers stopped 812 boats, 74 of which had a designated operator. Three arrests were made for operating watercraft while under the influence, and 94 citations were written. Nationwide more than 97,500 boats were stopped and 518 arrests made for boating under the influence.

While the main focus is those operating a boat while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, officers may also give warnings and write citations for other issues such as operation, fire extinguisher and life jacket violations. State law requires that children 12 and under must wear a life jacket at all times when the boat is underway and there should be one life jacket aboard 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, and it’s credited with successfully drawing attention to the dangers of boating under the influence.

“We’ve been participating in Operation Dry Water since day one, and anything that helps to prevent fatalities and injuries in Arizona is a valuable investment of our time and resources,” Baumgarten said.