Contact: Cpl. John McDerby, Division of Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police, 302-739-9913 or 302-354-1386, or Joanna Wilson, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902
Delaware to participate in Operation Dry Water June 26-28
to prevent alcohol-related boating accidents and save lives
DOVER (June 24, 2015) – DNREC’s Division of Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police today announced Delaware’s active participation in Operation Dry Water, an annual nationwide enforcement and education event aimed at preventing alcohol and drug-related boating accidents and fatalities. Over the June 26-28 weekend before the Fourth of July holiday, Fish & Wildlife officers will increase their presence on Delaware’s waterways to educate boaters and crack down on operators whose blood alcohol level exceeds the state and federal limit of 0.08 percent.
“Delaware consistently has one of the lowest boating accident rates in the country, and we want to keep it that way. Drinking and boating don’t mix, and can lead to accidents that put operators, their passengers and other boaters at risk,” said Division of Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police Chief Robert Legates. “During Operation Dry Water, our officers will be increasing patrols, checking boaters for intoxication and providing information on the dangers of operating under the influence.”
According to national statistics released by the U.S. Coast Guard, alcohol use is a leading contributing factor to fatal boating accidents. Of the 4,064 boating accidents on the nation’s waterways in 2014, alcohol was found to be the contributing factor in 21 percent of the fatalities. Nationally in 2014, 277 accidents involved alcohol use and resulted in 108 deaths and 248 injuries, an increase from 2013 with 236 accidents, 75 deaths and 187 injuries.
With 24 boating-related accidents and one fatality in 2014, Delaware’s accident rate remains below the national average, based on Coast Guard data. Recreational boating is a pastime enjoyed by thousands of Delawareans and visitors to our state, contributing more than $300 million a year to Delaware’s economy. More than 59,000 boats and watercraft are registered in Delaware.
Operation Dry Water is coordinated nationwide by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA), in partnership with state marine enforcement agencies and the U.S. Coast Guard. Over the three-day weekend in 2014, all 50 states, six U.S. Territories and more than 6,900 law enforcement officers from 585 agencies participated, resulting in 318 operating under the influence (OUI) arrests, 4,952 citations and 13,665 safety warnings in the sweeping effort aimed at safer boating.
During Operation Dry Water in 2014, Delaware officers made 1,117 contacts with boat operators and passengers and conducted 322 boardings while performing standard vessel safety checks and encouraging safe boating practices both in operations and required safety equipment. Thirty-five citations were issued that weekend, including one arrest for operating a vessel under the influence (OUI), helping to raise awareness of and reduce unsafe boating practices.
“Again this year Delaware will be joining with the other 49 states in Operation Dry Water,” said Chief Legates. “During the Operation Dry Water weekend and every day, if you are behind the helm and found to be under the influence, you will be arrested. We urge boat operators to stay sober, follow safe boating practices and plan ahead to have a non-drinking designated boat operator aboard if alcohol is consumed.”
Just like driving a road vehicle, operating a boat with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent or higher is in violation of Delaware and federal laws. Boat operators found to be at or above the limit will find their voyage terminated, will be arrested and may have their vessel impounded. Boat operators found to be under the influence also can face fines and potential jail time.
DNREC’s Fish & Wildlife officers use a standardized field sobriety test to identify intoxicated boaters. The test, which can be administered while the boat is afloat, allows marine enforcement agents to test boaters in a seated position and apply a percentage of probability that the subject is impaired at 0.08 blood alcohol concentration or higher.
Despite dramatic increases in boating activity in Delaware, boating-related accidents and fatalities have decreased through the years. The decreases in fatalities are directly attributed to increased enforcement efforts, Delaware’s mandatory recreational boating safety education program, and the state law requiring children 12 years old and younger to wear a life jacket while in a vessel underway in Delaware waters. Since the inception of the child life jacket law, no child under the age of 13 has drowned in a boating accident on Delaware waters as a result of not wearing a life jacket.
Division of Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police also remind the public that under Delaware law, all persons born on or after Jan. 1, 1978 must successfully complete a boating safety course in order to operate a boat on Delaware waters.
“Since the Boating Safety program was established more than 30,000 individuals have been certified to operate a recreational vessel on Delaware waters,” said Cpl. John McDerby, Fish & Wildlife Natural Resources Police boating safety coordinator. “An educated boater is a safe boater. Our statistics show that boaters who have successfully completed a boating safety course are less likely to be involved in a boating accident.”
Delaware’s Office of Boating Safety and Education also provides outreach to private non-profit organizations, schools, clubs and the public to educate boaters on skills and seamanship, and to encourage them to be safe, knowledgeable and responsible.
For more information, please visit the Delaware_Boating Safety webpage.
Vol. 45, No. 205