Boating under the influence, or boating while intoxicated, is just as deadly as drinking and driving, warns the San Diego Coast Guard.
Coast Guard units throughout the San Diego area are scheduled to increase boating safety patrols in an intensified nationwide effort, in support of “Operation Dry Water,” to enforce boating under the influence laws.
Operation Dry Water is aimed at raising awareness of the dangers of operating under the influence in an effort to decrease the number of recreational boating accidents and deaths.
It is illegal to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs in every state. Penalties for violating BUI/BWI laws can include large fines, suspension or revocation of boat operator privileges and jail terms.
Boaters can expect increased presence from the Coast Guard and law enforcement partners through the weekend and Fourth of July holiday. There will be dockside safety equipment inspections and boating safety boardings on the water to raise awareness.
“We’re very fortunate in San Diego to have such amazing recreational opportunities on the water,” said Commander Rob Potter, Chief of Response and Air Operations at Coast Guard Sector San Diego.
“The key is we want people to enjoy those opportunities safely. Much like drinking and driving, boating under the influence dramatically increases the risk that a good time can take a tragic turn.”
California has the third largest number of recreational boats in the country and has the second highest number of boating-related accidents and deaths according to the Coast Guard’s 2016 statistics.
Nationwide, 624 people died in boating and paddling accidents in 2016. Approximately 80 percent drown, and more than 83 percent of those people were not wearing a life jacket.
Alcohol use is the lead contributing factor in fatal boating accidents accounting for nearly 15 percent of all reported fatalities.
Below are some other tips from the Coast Guard to help boaters have a safe and pleasant weekend on the water:
- Make sure a friend or relative knows your float plan. A float plan states where you are going and how many people are on board your vessel. It also gives a vessel description, details your destination and what time you expect to arrive there. If you are delayed for some reason, make sure you let someone know.
- Make certain to check the local weather prior to departing the dock. Weather can change very rapidly and you should keep a watchful eye on the fore-casted conditions.
- Have nautical charts of the area you are boating in, a global positioning device and a reliable means of communication on board your vessel. VHF-radio is the best method of communication while on the water. Although cell phones are a good backup, they can be unreliable due to gaps in coverage area and the inevitable dead battery.
- Wear your life jacket. More than 83 percent of boaters who drown were not wearing their life jackets. In an emergency there might not be enough time to put one on, so wearing one at all times may save your life.