Harrisburg, PA – During the extended Independence Day weekend and throughout the summer, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) waterways conservation officers (WCO) will be focusing on keeping boaters safe by keeping impaired boaters off the water.
From July 5-7, WCOs will participate in Operation Dry Water, a nationally coordinated effort between law enforcement agencies, to conduct enhanced Boating Under the Influence (BUI) enforcement. Recreational boaters will notice an increase in the number of officers on the water and at recreational boating checkpoints.
In partnership with the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, the PFBC is working to increase boater awareness of the hazards associated with impaired boating, and to decrease the number of accidents and deaths attributed to impaired boating and other unsafe boating practices.
“We all share the water, and it should be a safe place for everyone to enjoy,” said Col. Corey Britcher, Director of the PFBC Bureau of Law Enforcement. “Alcohol and drugs impair a boat operator’s judgment and reaction time the same way they do when you are driving a car, and even more so because of the added stressors of sun, heat, wind and noise on a boat.”
In Pennsylvania, it is illegal to operate any watercraft, powered or unpowered, while impaired. The blood alcohol limit for boat operators is .08%, and WCOs are trained to recognize signs of impairment and conduct sobriety tests on the water. Penalties for BUI include fines, loss of boating privileges and imprisonment.
Last year across the state, 14 individuals died in boating accidents. Alcohol or drugs was determined to be a contributing factor in at least 3 of the cases. So far this year (2019), PFBC waterways conservation officers have arrested 12 individuals for boating under the influence.
Tips for staying safe on the water this summer include:
Boat sober. Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in recreational boater deaths*. Alcohol and drugs use can impair a boater’s judgment, balance, vision and reaction time.
Wear your life jacket. 85% of drowning victims were not wearing a life jacket*.
Take a boating safety education course. 71% of deaths occurred on boats where the operator did not receive boating safety instruction, where instruction was known*.