California participates in national campaign to reduce accidents

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Message to avoid alcohol use is key for the upcoming Fourth of July Holiday

The Division of Boating and Waterways announced recently the participation of more than 40 California marine law enforcement agencies in the national boating under the influence (BUI) awareness and enforcement campaign dubbed “Operation Dry Water.” From Friday, June 29 to Sunday, July 1, law enforcement agencies across the United States will increase patrols and/or carry out BUI checkpoints to help reduce the number of alcohol- and drug-related accidents and fatalities and foster a stronger, more visible deterrent to their use on the water.

Launching Operation Dry Water before the Fourth of July holiday is key to preventing accidents and saving lives. California and U.S. Coast Guard recreational boating statistics repeatedly show the Fourth of July as the deadliest holiday for accidents. Alcohol was a contributing factor in 31 percent of California’s boating fatalities over the past five years where testing was conducted. Nationally, alcohol is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents.

“California’s waterways during the upcoming Fourth of July holiday will be crowded,” stated Division of Boating and Waterways Acting Deputy Director/Boating Law Administrator Ramona Fernandez. “It is critical that boat operators be sober and attentive of their surroundings to safely react to unforeseen circumstances. Designating a sober passenger to help check unsafe behaviors is helpful. It is also important to know that even drunken passengers are at risk. They can easily fall overboard, swim near a propellor or lean over the side.”

Everyone onboard a boat is at risk when using alcohol and/or drugs and this may:

-Impair a boater’s judgment, balance, vision and reaction time.

-Increase fatigue and susceptibility to the effect of cold-water immersion.

-Intensify common boating “stressors” of sun, wind, noise and vibration.

-Intensify the side effects of alcohol, drugs and some prescription medications.

It is important to note that there is no open container law for recreational boaters, but it is against the law in California to operate a boat or water ski with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 or more. A person with a BAC less than 0.08 percent may be arrested if conditions are deemed unsafe. BUI convictions can result in up to six months in jail and/or fines of up to $1,000. Two convictions within seven years could add a jail term of up to one year. Boaters caught operating under the influence may also have their voyage terminated and their vessel impounded

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