Boaters may notice an increase in the presence of law enforcement July 5-7, as area agencies will be participating in Operation Dry Water.
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol Marine Division, Grand River Dam Authority Police Department, the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, and the U.S. Coast Guard are joining forces to detect impaired boaters and enforce boating under the influence (BUI) laws in the state.
"We're looking for more people boating under the influence," said OHP Trooper Joe Couch. "The legal limit for boating is just like operating a car: .08."
Oklahoma law states that a person is considered to be "under the influence" if he or she has an alcohol concentration of .08 percent or higher as measured in the breath or blood, or is under the influence of alcohol or any other intoxicating substance to a degree that makes him or her incapable of safely operating the vessel.
Alcohol can impair a boater's judgement, vision, balance, reaction time, and susceptibility to the effects of cold-water immersion, according to GRDA Police.
"Something the GRDA Police Department always stresses is boating, and floating, safe, smart and sober," said GRDA Vice President of Corporate Communications Justin Alberty. "Alcohol continues to be a leading contributor to boating accidents, so we want to do everything we can to make people aware of the dangers and promote safe outings on the water."
A GRDA Police release states that even some prescription medications can make operating a recreational vessel unsafe. Boaters are encouraged to check with their doctors about the effects of medications.
"Environmental stressors will enhance intoxication levels. It can intensify alcohol or even drug use," said Couch.
Those environmental stressors can include noise, vibration, wind, sun, or the movement of the boat on the water.
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents and boater deaths.
OHP reports numbers from Operation Dry Water to the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, according to Sarah Stewart, director of media operations for Oklahoma Department of Public Safety.
In 2018, OHP Troop W Marine Enforcement Division made contact with 323 vessels and 1,241 people.
From that, 315 warnings were issued, and 15 citations for operating under the influence and a drug charge.
Five boating accidents were investigated, and those accidents resulted in one fatality and five injuries.
"The numbers were down a little bit last year, and they may be slow this year because of the flooding," said Stewart. "We want people to celebrate this holiday responsibly. Boating under the influence is just as unacceptable as driving under the influence."
For information about Operation Dry Water, visit www.operationdrywater.org.