Boating under the influence crackdown

Boating accidents happen when you least expect them to. Just recently Texas game

Last year, the U.S. Coast Guard counted 4,064 accidents that involved 610 deaths, 2,678 injuries and about $39 million dollars of damage to property as a result of recreational boating accidents. Operator inattention, improper lookout, operator inexperience, excessive speed, and alcohol use rank as the top five primary contributing factors in accidents. Topping the list is running a boat while intoxicated. Alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents.

This past weekend, thousands of law enforcement officers across the United States, including Texas game wardens, were on heightened alert for those violating boating under the influence laws during the annual Operation Dry Water weekend. This was a nationally coordinated enforcement campaign, focused on deterring boaters from boating under the influence of drugs or alcohol, according to Cody Jones, Texas Boating Law Administrator for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Participants in Operation Dry Water weekend focused their efforts on detecting impaired boaters and educating the public about the dangers of boating under the influence.

“The decision about whether to drink and boat under the influence is a choice every boater makes,” says Jones. “Boating under the influence is a 100 percent preventable crime.”

Since the inception of the Operation Dry Water Campaign in 2009, law enforcement officers have removed 1,875 BUI operators from the nation’s waterways and made contact with over 604,250 boaters during the annual three-day weekend. In 2014, 585 local, state and federal law enforcement agencies and USCG units from 56 state and territories participated in Operation Dry Water.

“Environmental ‘stressors’ such as wind, noise and the movement of the boat while on the water intensify the effects of alcohol or drug use on an individual while boating,” says Jones. “Boaters can become impaired more quickly on the water than on land.

“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 accidents and fatalities through increased recreational boater awareness and by fostering a stronger and more visible deterrent to alcohol and drug use on the water.”

Just recently Texas game wardens saved the lives three boaters.

In one situation, two girls learned the importance of life jackets at Falcon State Park. A Starr County game warden got a call from a woman who said her daughter and a friend had drifted out from shore on Falcon Lake in kayaks. She said the wind was blowing them toward the middle of the lake and the girls couldn’t paddle against the wind and waves. Almost immediately after hanging up, the mother called back and said one of the girls had flipped out of the kayak and could barely be seen. The warden asked a state park officer to assist in a rescue and as they launched their boat, the wind was blowing hard and the waves were white capping on the lake. A red life jacket was floating between the waves. As they reached the floating girl, she could barely speak from exhaustion. After helping her into the boat, she said she almost gave up hope of being rescued. The officers then went to the other girl who was still in her kayak and got her safely in the boat as well.

In another lifesaving action, a man was on his boat with a friend when the motor stalled in Copano Bay. The two used an anchor and line to pull themselves to shore, and when the line broke, one of them dove into the water to grab it. Luckily his friend threw a life jacket to him. The boat drifted away and the man was left hanging onto the jacket until Aransas County game wardens arrived to pull him to safety.