A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Keeping KY’s waterways safe, undertaking Operation Dry Water to keep boaters alcohol- and drug-free

In line with their mission to keep Kentucky’s waterways safe for all to enjoy, conservation officers with the Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources will be joining counterparts from other law enforcement agencies across the country for Operation Dry Water.

The nationwide effort to educate the public about the dangers of boating while impaired is July 2-4, and boaters can expect an increased law enforcement presence on and around Kentucky’s waterways as a reminder not to boat while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

“We want everybody to have a safe and enjoyable time on the water this holiday weekend,” said Maj. Shane Carrier, assistant director of Law Enforcement for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife.

“Along with raising awareness about the dangers of boating while impaired, and offering reminders about other safe boating practices like wearing a life jacket and taking a boater education course, we’ll be monitoring for dangerous boating activity.”

Alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents, according to the U.S. Coast Guard’s 2021 Recreational Boating Statistics report.

Alcohol can affect judgment, balance, vision, and reaction time for boat operators and passengers alike. It also can increase fatigue. Sun, wind, noise, vibration, and motion may intensify the side effects of alcohol, drugs, and some medications.

Operation Dry Water is designed to reduce the number of alcohol- and drug-related incidents and fatalities on the water.

Kentucky Fish and Wildlife will step up patrols to provide increased vigilance for dangerous boaters over the three-day weekend.

A law enacted in 2019 allows Kentucky conservation officers to make a boating-under-the-influence arrest based on probable cause of operator intoxication when an accident has caused property damage or physical injury. Persons arrested for boating under the influence may be subject to 24-hours detention for a first offense and 48 hours for a second offense.

Boaters can learn more about boating under the influence in the Kentucky Fishing and Boating Guide, the regulations summary booklet, available online at fw.ky.gov and wherever licenses are sold, or at operationdrywater.org.

Operation Dry Water is an annual effort coordinated by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) in partnership with the Coast Guard and law enforcement agencies. Law enforcement officers across the country removed 638 impaired operators from waterways during Operation Dry Water last year and more than 5,300 impaired operators since the campaign’s inception in 2009.

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