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Coast Guard Cracking Down on Boating Under the Influence This Holiday Weekend

Mike Schuler
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July 2, 2021

The U.S. Coast Guard and its partner agencies are kicking off a national campaign this Fourth of July weekend aimed at preventing accidents and fatalities due to boating under the influence.

The Coast Guard’s annual Operation Dry Water is aimed at reducing the number of alcohol and drug use on the water through increased law enforcement and spreading awareness about the dangers boating while intoxicated. This year’s campaign will take place from today, Friday, July 2nd, and will continue through the weekend.

This year is notable because of a surge in boating fatalities during the pandemic as more people hit the water. The Coast Guard this week released its 2020 Recreational Boating Statistics Report, showing 767 boating fatalities nationwide in 2020 for a 25 percent increase since 2019. 

The report noted strong evidence that boating activity increased significantly last year, with reports of increased boat sales, insurance policies, claims, and calls for towing assistance. With more boaters on the water comes greater risk of deaths, injuries, and accidents. 

The report also showed that alcohol continued to be the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents in 2020, accounting for over 100 deaths, or 18 percent of total fatalities. Boaters should never operate a vessel or paddle craft under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and should always wear a life jacket, the Coast Guard said.

Operation Dry Water 2020 involved 620 agencies across the U.S. and resulted in 305,466 boardings and 625 arrests for boating under the influence.

The Coast Guard 9th District for the Great Lakes region is also urging mariners to use extra caution with stiff breezes, potentially heavy seas and small craft advisories expected for parts across Lake Michigan this weekend.

Meanwhile, the Coast Guard 13th for the Pacific Northwest is reminding boaters of the dangers of cold water immersion and drowning. As air temperatures continue to break the 100F mark in some places, waters across the region remain in the 50 to 60-degree range.

As a reminder, the Coast Guard can board any vessel, at any time to ensure the safety of those aboard. During a boarding, a Coast Guard team will conduct an initial sweep to identify any obvious safety hazards and verify the general seaworthiness of the vessel. They may also physically inspect for the following required safety equipment: 

  • Registration, sticker, documentation
  • Life Jackets (correct size for those on board and in working condition)
  • Visual distress signals, including flares (if required), and their expiration dates
  • Sound-producing devices such as whistles or air horns
  • Fire extinguishers, when required
  • Any other safety equipment required by law

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