As boaters look forward to the 4th of July holiday, thousands of law enforcement officers across the U.S. will be on heightened alert for those violating boating while intoxicated (BWI) laws. From July 2-4, New York State Park Police and the Department of Environmental Conservation, in partnership with the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators and the U.S. Coast Guard, along with other state and local agencies, will participate in the national “Operation Dry Water” heightened awareness and enforcement weekend. Law agencies across the country will focus on preventing incidents related to impaired boating and educating boaters about safe boating practices, including sober boating.
Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in recreational boater deaths. Over the course of the July 4th holiday, officers from both agencies will work to increase public awareness of the dangers of boating while intoxicated for both operators and passengers, and will be making arrests under a zero-tolerance approach.
“With summer kicking off and the public eager to get back to normal from COVID-19 shutdowns, we expect there will be a lot of boating traffic on the waterways during the holiday weekend. Boating while intoxicated is dangerous and illegal and can lead to serious consequences including arrest, serious injuries and even death,” said Park Police Acting Assistant Director of Law Enforcement Michael Pavelock. “As a part of the community ourselves, the New York State Park Police want to ensure that recreational boaters, paddlers and anyone enjoying our waterways have a safe place to spend their time. That is why the New York State Park Police is joining hundreds of agencies nationwide to do our part in keeping boaters safe and preventing incidents and fatalities related to boating under the influence.”
DEC Division of Law Enforcement Director Bernard Rivers said, “Much like any motor vehicle, boats can be deadly weapons in the wrong hands. It is absolutely critical that those heading out on New York waters this holiday weekend are not impaired by alcohol or drugs, as that can turn an enjoyable day into a tragic one in an instant. To ensure everyone’s safety, DEC’s Division of Law Enforcement will join forces with State Park Police and other agencies to participate in ‘Operation Dry Water’ to ensure compliance with BUI laws.”
Boating while intoxicated or impaired by drugs is equally dangerous for the boat operator and for the boat passenger. Operating a vessel under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal on all bodies of water and can lead to serious injuries, death and legal consequences. In New York, it is illegal to operate a vessel with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher. New York State Park Police and the DEC remind boaters to always boat sober and to wear a life jacket when on or around the water.
Begun in 2009, “Operation Dry Water” is a year-round boating under the influence awareness and enforcement campaign with the mission of reducing the number of alcohol and drug-related incidents and fatalities through increased recreational boater awareness and by fostering a stronger and more visible deterrent to alcohol and drug use on the water. Last year, the effort involved more than 7,600 officers across the country, resulting in in about 105,000 vessel stops and more than 8,600 citations, including 625 for boating while intoxicated.
New York also continues to phase in Brianna’s Law, which requires all operators of motorized watercraft to complete a state-approved boating safety course. Adopted in 2019, the law currently requires all motorboat operators born on or after Jan. 1, 1993, to have a boating safety certificate. Failure to comply carries a potential fine of between $100 to $250.
Beginning in 2022, that requirement extends to all boaters born on or after Jan. 1, 1988. In 2023, the requirement extends to those born on or after Jan. 1, 1983, and in 2024, extends to Jan. 1, 1978. The law will apply to all operators regardless of age beginning in 2025.