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The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) will join partners across the country this weekend for the annual Operation Dry Water campaign – a national crackdown on impaired boating. DEM’s Division of Law Enforcement will be conducting increased patrols from Friday – Sunday and monitoring for boaters under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
“It is our job as law enforcement officers to identify and remove drunk or impaired boaters from the water – so that everyone can continue to have an enjoyable and safe boating experience,” said Lieutenant Steven Criscione, boating safety coordinator for DEM’s Division of Law Enforcement. “The effects of impairment on the water can be severe. Boaters tend to have far less experience and confidence operating a boat versus an automobile, and stressors common to boating – sun, wind, noise, vibration, and motion – can intensify the effects of drugs and alcohol.”
The U.S. Coast Guard finds that alcohol use is the leading cause of recreational boating deaths – with 15 percent of all recreational boating fatalities nationwide attributed to alcohol use. According to Rhode Island law, the limits (.08) and penalties are the same for driving and boating under the influence. Testing standards are also consistent.
“Operating a boat under the influence has impacts both on the water and off,” continued Criscione. “Many boaters trailer their boats. An intoxicated boater, if undetected, could eventually get behind the wheel of a car and onto our highways – putting countless people at risk. Regardless of whether you personally boat or not, we all have the potential to be impacted by an impaired boater.”
Partners in Operation Dry Water include DEM, National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, U.S. Coast Guard, and many others. As part of the 2016 campaign, DEM boarded 61 vessels; issued 36 warnings and citations for boating-related equipment, operation, and other violations; and made 3 arrests.
For more information on Rhode Island boating laws, visit www.dem.ri.gov.