State and local law enforcement will extend their normal holiday patrols from roads to waterways in a bid to stop impaired driving and boating.
“Notifying BWI (drunk boating) is just as important as stopping DWI (drunk driving),” Niagara County Sheriff Michael Filicetti said Friday. “We will have additional road patrols and we will also have sea patrols. We will focus on waterways and highways.
Sheriff’s deputies will be joined on the water this year by New York State Park Police who will participate in Operation Dry Water, an effort to deter boating under the influence.
Launched in 2009, Operation Dry Water is an awareness and enforcement campaign that aims to reduce the number of alcohol and drug-related incidents and deaths on waterways by increasing awareness among boaters. The operation also provides a stronger and more visible deterrent to the use of alcohol and drugs on the water.
Thousands of law enforcement officers across the United States are participating in the operation. In addition to the Niagara County Sheriff and Park Police, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, New York State Police and U.S. Coast Guard are assisting in increased enforcement activities of the law.
Last year, the effort involved more than 7,500 law enforcement officers across the country, resulting in approximately 115,000 vessel arrests and more than 42,000 citations and warnings, including 638 boating arrests under the influence (BUI).
“As we kick off the summer season, we expect increased boating traffic on the waterways over the holiday weekend. While boating is a great recreational activity, boating under the influence is both dangerous and illegal and can result in serious consequences including arrest, injury and even death,” said Michael Pavelock, Director Acting Park Police Deputy. “The New York State Park Police want to make sure that boaters and anyone who enjoys the waterways have a safe place to spend their time.”
Studies have shown that alcohol is the number one contributing factor to boater deaths.
“We’ve had tragedies on the water and we’ll be both up and down (Niagara River) with our patrols,” Filicetti said.
Law enforcement officials have said that operating a vessel under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal on all bodies of water. Penalties for BUI include fines, possible jail time, impoundment of your boat, and loss of boating privileges.
In New York, it is illegal to operate a ship with a blood alcohol level (BAC) of 0.08% or higher.
“As we celebrate the 4th of July weekend, we want to remind boaters to navigate our state’s lakes, rivers and canals in a safe and responsible manner,” said New State Police Superintendent York, Kevin P. Bruen. “Boaters are encouraged to wear their life jackets, obey posted speed limits and not operate vessels under the influence of alcohol or drugs.”
New York is phasing in Brianna’s Law, which requires all personal watercraft operators to complete a state-approved boating safety course. Passed in 2019, the law currently requires all motorboat operators born on or after January 1, 1993 to have a boating safety certificate.
Failure to comply is subject to a potential fine of $100 to $250.
As of 2022, this requirement extends to all boaters born on or after January 1, 1988. In 2023, the requirement extends to those born on or after January 1, 1983, and in 2024, it extends to January 1, 1978. The law will apply to all operators regardless of age from of 2025.