The Oregon Marine Board, marine law enforcement from 18 county sheriff’s offices, Oregon State Police, and five Oregon U.S. Coast Guard Stations will be participating in Operation Dry Water during the weekend of July 3-5.
The enforcement is part of a nationally coordinated effort to reduce the number of accidents and fatalities related to Boating Under the Influence of Intoxicants (BUII).
“We have multiple patrols scheduled this season to catch impaired boat operators,” Oregon Marine Board Boating Safety Program Manager Randy Henry said. “We also have new tools. The legislature gave us the authority in 2020 to take your boater education card for up to three years, if convicted.”
Many marine officers have completed specialized training to recognize alcohol and drug impairment. This includes prescription drugs, alcohol, inhalants, marijuana, or any other substance that impairs a person’s ability to make sound judgments and to safely operate a boat.
The effects of drugs and alcohol are also amplified on the water with the combination of sun glare, wind, waves, and other environmental stressors. Alcohol also dehydrates the body making sudden immersion into cold water at an even greater risk for drowning.
Impaired boaters can expect to be arrested or face serious penalties. In Oregon, the consequences of being convicted of BUII include the possibility of jail time, $6,250 in fines, loss of boating privileges and a one to three-year suspension of the boater education card and potentially being court-mandated to take another boating safety course.
Marine officers can arrest boaters on observed impairment and can legally obtain blood, breath or urine if a boater fails field sobriety testing. Officers have already arrested three people for BUII this year and at least two fatalities appear to have involved alcohol or drugs.
“Overall, recreational boating is safe if boaters wear life jackets, boat sober, and keep a sharp lookout," Henry said.
Waterways are becoming more crowded with a variety of mixed boating and other activities, according to Henry, so he said it’s important to pay attention to what’s going on around you and to follow the navigation rules of the road.
"If boaters changed two things; wear life jackets and abstain from impairing substances, accidents would be rare,” Henry said. “We’re facing a high number of boating fatalities already this year just from cold water and life jackets not being worn. We really want to keep alcohol and drugs out of the mix, or we’ll be at record high fatalities for 2020. We want to ensure that boating remains safe and fun.”
Henry said the public is the Marine Board's ally in safe boating.
"If you see an impaired operator or someone who is operating in a way that threatens others’ safety, call 911 and report it," Henry said. "That’s how we can work together to save lives.”
For more information about Operation Dry Water, visit www.operationdrywater.org.