Contact: Sr. Cpl. Carl Winckoski, Division of Fish and Wildlife Enforcement/ Office of Boating Safety and Education, 302-739-9913 or 302-542-2115, or Joanna Wilson, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902.
Delaware to participate in Operation Dry Water June 27-29 to prevent alcohol-related boating accidents and save lives
DOVER (June 26, 2014) – DNREC’s Division of Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Section today announced that Delaware once again will participate 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 27-29 weekend before the Fourth of July holiday, the Enforcement Section will increase its 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 and Wildlife Director David Saveikis. “During Operation Dry Water, our Enforcement agents 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 4,062 boating accidents on the nation’s waterways in 2013, 16 percent were caused by alcohol or drug intoxication. Nationally in 2013, 236 accidents involved alcohol use and resulted in 75 deaths and 187 injuries.
With eight boating-related accidents and no fatalities in 2013, Delaware’s accident rate is well below the national average. 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 58,000 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 2013, all 50 states, six U.S. Territories and more than 6,200 law enforcement officers from more than 500 agencies participated, resulting in 290 operating under the influence (OUI) arrests, and 17,159 citations and safety warnings in the sweeping effort aimed at safer boating.
During Operation Dry Water in 2013, Delaware’s agents made 530 contacts with boat operators and passengers and conducted 216 boardings while performing standard vessel safety checks and encouraging safe boating practices both in operations and required safety equipment. Twenty-seven citations were issued that weekend, including two arrests for operating 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 Division of Fish and Wildlife Chief of Enforcement Chief Robert Legates. “During Operation Dry Water weekend and every day, if you are behind the helm and 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 at or above the limit will find their voyage terminated, will be arrested and may have their vessel impounded. Boat operators under the influence also can face fines and potential jail time.
DNREC’s Fish and Wildlife agents 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 under to wear a life jacket while in a vessel and underway in Delaware waters. Since the inception of the child life jacket law, not a single child has died in a boating accident on Delaware waters as a result of drowning without a life jacket.
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 Sr. Cpl. Carl Winckoski of DNREC’s Office of Boating Safety. “An educated boater is a safe boater. People who have successfully taken our boating safety course have been less likely to be involved in a boating accident.”
Delaware’s Office of Boating Safety and Education also provides volunteer instructors 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. Courses are offered free of charge, including materials and educational aids.
For more information, please visit Delaware_Boating Safety.
The DNREC Division of Fish and Wildlife recognizes and thanks the majority of anglers, hunters and boaters who comply with and support Delaware’s fishing, hunting and boating laws and regulations. Citizens are encouraged to report fish and wildlife and boating violations to the Delaware Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Section by calling 302-739-4580. Wildlife violations may also be reported anonymously to Operation Game Theft by calling 800-292-3030 or online at www.dnrec.delaware.gov/fw/Hunting/Pages/OpGameTheft.aspx.
Vol. 44, No. 221