Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Law Enforcement Division (LDWF/LED) agents will take part in Operation Dry Water from June 22-24 with increased patrols for operating or driving a boat while intoxicated (DWI) enforcement and boating safety.
During the Operation Dry Water weekend, LDWF agents will be out in force patrolling state waterways for boat operators whose blood alcohol content exceeds the state limit of .08 percent.
"We want people to be safe and have fun while boating recreationally," commented Lt. Col. Jeff Mayne, LDWF’s state Boating Law Administrator. "But alcohol use has become one of the leading contributing factors in fatal recreational boating crash incidents. We recommend a sober operator of the vessel just like you would have a sober driver on the road."
Alcohol can impair a boater’s judgment, balance, vision and reaction time. It can increase fatigue and susceptibility to the effects of cold-water immersion. Sun, wind, noise, vibration and motion intensify the side effects of alcohol, drugs and some prescription medications.
Louisiana had 36 fatalities from boating crash incidents in 2011 with five of those listing alcohol as a primary cause. Nationwide, statistics from 2011 reveal that 16 percent of all boat incident fatalities were a direct result of alcohol or drug use.
LDWF agents issued 108 DWI citations to boat operators in 2011 with 10 of those occurring over the Operation Dry Water weekend.
Impaired boaters caught this weekend can expect penalties to be severe. In Louisiana, a DWI on the water carries the same penalties and fines as on the road and includes jail time, fines and loss of driving and boating operator privileges.
Anyone cited for a DWI on the water or on the road will lose his or her driver's license and boating privileges for the specified time ordered by the judge in the case. Also, each offense of operating a vehicle or vessel while intoxicated counts toward the total number of DWI crimes whether they happened on the water or road.
In Louisiana a DWI can be issued to anyone operating a moving vessel or vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher. First offense DWI carries a $300 to $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail. Second offense DWI brings a $750 to $1,000 fine and between 30 days and six months in jail. Third offense DWI carries a $5,000 fine and between one and five years in jail.
“There will be arrests this weekend and some boaters will face the consequences of operating a boat while impaired," added Lt. Col. Mayne. "But we'd much rather arrest someone than to have to tell their friends and family they're never coming back."
Operation Dry Water was started in 2009 and is a joint program involving the LDWF/LED, the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) and the U.S. Coast Guard. More information is available at www.operationdrywater.org.
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