The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Division of Law Enforcement will be promoting awareness and conducting heightened enforcement targeting boating under the influence as part of the national Operation Dry Water campaign this week.
FWC officers will be focused on educating boaters about safe boating practices, which includes boating sober and enforcing the Florida’s boating under the influence laws.
With the summer boating season underway and the July Fourth holiday approaching, the FWC reminds boaters that impaired boating is against the law. The Fourth of July holiday is one of the busiest boating holidays all over the U.S., including here in Florida. In 2017, a total of 944,162 boats were registered in Florida, with an estimated 1 million additional non-registered boats enjoying Florida’s waters. And last year, July had more reportable accidents (113) and more fatal accidents (11) than any other month.
Operating a vessel under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal on all bodies of water and can lead to serious injuries and consequences. In Florida, it is illegal to operate a vessel with a blood alcohol content level of .08 or higher - the same as it is to operate a vehicle.
“The accidents and tragedies that happen because individuals choose to drive drunk or impaired, on land or on the water, are preventable. The decision lies with the individual on whether they choose to operate a boat or vehicle while under the influence,” says Maj. Robert Rowe, FWC’s Boating and Waterways Section Leader. “As law enforcement, it is our job to do all we can to ensure the safety of our recreational boaters and paddlers. That is why the FWC is joining other states and agencies across the country to do our part in keeping boaters safe and preventing accidents related to boating under the influence.”
Alcohol is a leading contributing factor in recreational boating deaths, and a major contributor to accidents. Last year in Florida, out of the 67 fatal accident victims, 24 percent (16) were related to alcohol or drug use. If a person decides to take alcohol on their voyage, it is important to designate an operator who isn’t drinking alcohol and will remain sober to ensure everyone gets home safely. The FWC encourages boaters to enjoy the boating season to its full extent by boating sober, wearing a life jacket and taking a boating education course.
The mission of Operation Dry Water is to reduce 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 use on the water.
For more information, visit MyFWC.com/Boating and OperationDryWater.org.
FWC 2017 Boating Accident Statistics Link: MyFWC.com/Boating/Safety-Education/Accidents.