‘Operation Dry Water’ to run July Fourth weekend

If you plan on heading out on the water this Fourth of July weekend, law enforcement will be looking for alcohol and drug-impaired boaters to help keep people safe.

The Clallam County Sheriff’s Office said law enforcement agencies are gearing up for “Operation Dry Water — a nationally coordinated effort that focuses on boating-under-the-influence (BUI) awareness and enforcement.”

There will be a increase in patrols on Puget Sound waters, including the Strait of Juan De Fuca and Lake Sutherland.

The U.S. Coast Guard reports that boating under the influence is the main contributing factor in fatal recreational boating accidents.

It is illegal to use any substance that impairs a person’s ability to operate a boat in the state, including kayaks, canoes, paddleboards and other watercraft.

Below are some things for boaters to know:

  • State law allows law enforcement officers to require boaters suspected of operating a boat while intoxicated to submit to a breath or blood test.

  • Refusing to submit to a test is a civil infraction with a maximum fine of $2,050.

  • The penalty for operating a boat under the influence is a gross misdemeanor punishable by a maximum fine of $5,000 and 364 days in jail.

  • Additionally, a BUI is considered a prior offense if there are later convictions for driving under the influence (DUI).

It is also illegal to operate a boat with a blood alcohol content level of 0.08 or higher, the same as a vehicle.

“The accidents and tragedies that happen because individuals chose to drive drunk or impaired, on land or on the water, are preventable. The decision lies with the individual on whether they chose to operate a boat or vehicle while under the influence,” said Sheriff Bill Benedict. “As law enforcement, it is our job to do all we can to ensure the safety of our recreational boaters and paddlers. That is why the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office is joining other states and agencies across the country to do our part in keeping boaters safe and preventing accidents related to boating under the influence.”

In 2021, more than 570 local, state and federal agencies participated in Operation Dry Water, which resulted in nearly 640 BUI arrests and more than 42,440 citations and warnings for safety violations that were issued.

To find out more about the BUI laws in Washington state, click here.

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