LITTLE ROCK – Arkansas wildlife officers will join boating safety officers throughout the United States this weekend to crack down on boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The special awareness action, dubbed “Operation Dry Water,” is an annual event held the weekend before Independence Day to prevent boating accidents from irresponsible boating caused by drinking.
According to Capt. Stephanie Weatherington, boating law administrator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents. Boating while intoxicated can be even more dangerous that driving a car while intoxicated, as most boaters have less experience operating a boat than they do operating a car. Boats don’t have brakes, and slower responses to a sudden danger can be the difference between life and death.
“The sun, heat, wind and motion all intensify alcohol’s impact on a person,” Weatherington said. “Someone who could enjoy a beer or two in the air conditioning at home or in a restaurant and not feel any effects may become impaired by the same amount of alcohol onboard a boat in the summer sun.”
The penalty for boating under the influence in Arkansas can include losing your driver’s license. Weatherington says this penalty has become more common throughout the U.S. and may be causing a decline in alcohol abuse on the water.
Weatherington says the added impact of alcohol can be a danger to passengers as well as drivers. Although not illegal, passengers who consume too much alcohol can make poor judgements that can lead to injuries and death as well.
“We want people to go out and have a good time on the water, but we also want them to use good judgement,” Weatherington said. “Holiday weekends can be very crowded, and there may be a lot of people out there that aren’t extremely experienced at piloting a boat. An accident or fatality isn’t any fun for anyone.”