Expect crackdown on drinking while boating

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Recreational boating fatalities last year jumped to their highest levels since 1998 and boating under the influence (BUI) was the leading contributing factor, according to the U.S. Coast Guard’s report, 2011 Recreational Boating Statistics.

The report comes just before Kootenai County marine law enforcement officers participate in Operation Dry Water 2012, an annual nationwide campaign focused on enforcement of BUI laws and educating all boaters to the risks of operating a boat under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

Officers will be out in force June 22-24 looking for boaters whose blood alcohol content exceeds the state limit of .08.

Operation Dry Water will include increased patrols as well as boater education. Impaired boaters can expect penalties to be severe.

In Idaho the consequences for BUI include fines, jail, requirement to attend a boating safety class and possibly the restriction of your boating privileges.

“We intend to arrest intoxicated boaters and to reach out to as many people as possible about the hazards of boating under the influence,” says Deputy Tim Leeder of the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department.

BUI continues to be a major problem in the U.S., reports the sheriff's department. A boat operator or even passengers with a blood alcohol concentration above the legal limit run a significantly increased risk of being involved in a fatal boating accident.

Alcohol was a contributing factor in just 6 percent of boating accidents overall, but figured in 16 percent of boating fatalities in the U.S. last year. When impaired by alcohol, boating accidents are more probable and more deadly for both passengers and boat operators, many of whom capsize their vessel or simply fall overboard.

Operation Dry Water, a multi-agency education and enforcement initiative launched by the National Association of Boating Law Administrators in 2009 in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard, puts thousands of local, state and federal marine law enforcement officers on the water nationwide prior to the July 4th holiday to give BUI enforcement high visibility during the peak boating season.

Operation Dry Water 2012 is a joint program of the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation, the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, the U.S. Coast Guard and local law enforcement agencies. For more information, visit www.operationdrywater.org.

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