Law enforcement across the nation will be participating in Operation Dry Water this weekend to educate the public on boating safety and to strictly enforce Boating Under the Influence laws.
Locally, the undertaking will involve increased police presence at Castaic and Pyramid lakes as officers will be on the lookout for boaters under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This yearly attempt to curb BUI’s started in 2009, and saw a large increase in law enforcement participation last year with the number of vessels contacted more than doubling from 17,454 to 40,121.
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The operation is coordinated by NASBLA, the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, and according to the group’s website, www.operationdrywater.org, is intended to reduce the number of alcohol and drug-related accidents and fatalities during the last weekend of June before the Fourth of July.
According to statistics from the U.S Coast Guard, 17 percent of boating fatalities occur as a direct result of alcohol and drug use,
California state law identifies operating any waterborne vessel, from a canoe to a large ship, with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent or higher as grounds for issuing a BUI misdemeanor citation. A BUI can result in up to one year in county jail, a $1,000 fine, or both. However, the penalties are more serious if another person is injured as a result of the incident and in those cases the perpetrator can be fined up to $5,000 while facing the same possibility of up to one year in county jail.
According to Sgt. Edward Winslow of the Santa Clarita Sheriff’s Department, BUI checkpoints will be set up around Castaic and Pyramid lakes, and will operate similarly to their counterparts that are intended to catch drunk drivers.
“People will pass by on boats and a deputy will make contact,” Winslow said. “If there is a sign of intoxication they will be detained and questioned, then released if they are within the legal limit. If they are not an arrest will be made.”
Nationwide there were 322 BUI arrests made last year, compared to 283 made in 2009. According to Winslow, levels of police participation this year will be similar to what was seen in 2010.
If you suspect that someone is boating intoxicated you can contact the Santa Clarita Sheriff’s Department at (661) 255-1121, or make an anonymous report to “LA Crime Stoppers” by dialing 800-222-TIPS (8477), texting the letters TIPLA plus your tip to CRIMES (274637), or post a tip to their website at www.lacrimestoppers.org.