Ramped up efforts to keep Minnesota’s waterways safe from boaters under the influence of drugs and alcohol are set, with hundreds of Department of Natural Resources conservation officers and other public safety personnel planning extra patrols during the Fourth of July week.
The extra attention is part of Operation Dry Water, a nationwide campaign set for July 5-7 to highlight the dangers of boating under the influence of drugs and alcohol and call attention to the heavy penalties associated with boating while intoxicated (BWI).
In Minnesota and across the nation, BWI is the leading contributing factor in boating accidents and fatalities. In the past two years, half of the fatal boating incidents in Minnesota involved alcohol, which is higher than the five-year average. Operation Dry Water coincides with the busy Fourth of July holiday weekend, when BWI-related injuries and deaths tend to spike.
Minnesota’s BWI laws are among the strongest in the country, and new aspects of the law mean people convicted of drinking and driving – whether they’re driving a boat, motor vehicle or recreational vehicle – lose their privilege to operate any of them.
While failure to wear a life jacket is the reason the majority of fatal boating accidents turn deadly, being intoxicated often is what causes people to end up in the water in the first place. The legal blood alcohol limit for boaters is .08, but public safety officials encourage boaters to leave alcohol on shore and boat sober on “dry water.”