In more than half the boating fatalities in Minnesota, alcohol is the main factor. That means those deaths likely were preventable, which is a key reason why Minnesota Department of Natural Resources conservation officers and their public safety partners are stepping up their efforts to keep Minnesota’s waterways safe July 1-3.
The increased focus on boating under the influence is part of Operation Dry Water, a nationwide campaign to highlight the dangers of boating under the influence of drugs and alcohol and call attention to the heavy penalties associated with boating while intoxicated. Each year during this time, dozens of boaters are arrested for BWI.
Minnesota’s lakes and rivers likely will be extraordinarily busy over the next week, thanks to a promising forecast and the annual urge to celebrate the Fourth of July on the water. Anyone operating a boat should not use drugs or ingest alcohol. In Minnesota and across the nation, BWI is the leading contributing factor in boating accidents and fatalities. Operation Dry Water coincides with the days leading up to the Fourth of July because waterways are particularly busy and BWI-related injuries and deaths tend to spike during this holiday period.
“If you’re caught boating under the influence, you’ll get a stay in jail – not a second chance” said Capt. Adam Block, DNR boating law administrator. “People out enjoying the water the right way should not be put at risk because of someone else’s decision to drink and boat.”
The penalties associated with boating under the influence have never been higher, particularly in Minnesota, which has some of the nation’s strongest BWI laws. People convicted of drinking and driving – whether they’re driving a boat, motor vehicle or recreational vehicle – lose their privilege to operate any of them.
The reason many boating accidents turn fatal is because the people who fall overboard weren’t wearing a life jacket. At the same time, being intoxicated often is what causes them to end up in the water in the first place. Public safety officials urge all boaters to stay “dry” on the water and wait until they’re back on shore to drink alcohol.
Operation Dry Water activities are sponsored by the National Association of Boating Law Administrators in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard.