Operation Dry Water: Wisconsin DNR, Coast Guard on high alert for impaired boaters over 4th of July weekend

MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Fourth of July weekend is coming up, and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Coast Guard say this is the busiest time of the year for state waterways. 

DNR officials are reminding boaters to keep safety top of mind as they cast off. For those who hit the water this holiday weekend, you will see more DNR conservation wardens and local law enforcement on high alert for anyone under the influence as part of the annual national Operation Dry Water on Friday, July 2 through Sunday, July 4.

Officials say alcohol use is a leading factor in recreational boating fatalities, and nearly 80% of fatal boating incidents involve drowning. Since Operation Dry Water started in 2009, law enforcement officers across the nations have removed more than 4,700 impaired operators from the nation's waterways.

Boaters can expect to see increased Coast Guard law enforcement as well as part of Operation Dry Water. 

Law enforcement agencies across the country are taking part in the Operation Dry Water campaign. In 2020, 620 agencies took part. 

DNR officials say the most important things for people to remember is to boat sober and wear their life jacket. Officials say so far in 2021, 13 people have died in boating-related incidents, and most of them were not wearing their life jackets.

“We want to make sure that everyone on the water has a safe and enjoyable holiday weekend,” said Lt. Darren Kuhn, DNR Boating Law Administrator. “This means that all operators and passengers should boat sober all season long. Boating under the influence is a 100% preventable crime. Whether you’re driving the boat or enjoying it as a passenger, being under the influence can cause slips, falls overboard and other dangerous incidents. Stay safe by boating sober and always wearing a life jacket.”

A boat operator or passenger with a blood alcohol level above the legal limit run an increased risk of being involved in a boating accident, DNR officials say. Boating accidents are more likely and deadlier for both passengers and boat operators, many of whom capsize their vessel or fall overboard, when impaired by alcohol. 

Officials urge boaters to take a boating safety education course before getting on the water. 

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