SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Law enforcement from the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources will be part of the national “Operation Dry Water” this weekend. The effort is nationwide to crack down on boating under the influence of alcohol.
“Dry water means dry of alcohol,” said DNR Lt. Tim Coleman. “Nationwide alcohol is a factor in more than 60 percent of boating accidents.”
Coleman said the legal blood alcohol limit for operating a boat is the same as a vehicle, .08. Natural Resources Police in West Virginia have breathalyzer tests on their patrol boats and use them often trying to keep drunken operators off the water.
“Appoint a sober skipper.” said Coleman. “That’s the saying we try to encourage everybody who uses a boat to consider. There’s no open container law on a boat, but the driver can’t be drinking.”
Officers will patrol all of the state’s major waterways again this weekend and will have a sharper eye out for impaired operation than usual. The national campaign is aimed at raising awareness of the matter and getting unsafe operators off the water.
Coleman said many don’t realize you can actually become intoxicated faster aboard a boat.
“The motion of the waves, the hot sun, and constant movement all increase the effects of alcohol,” he said. “How many times have you spent the day on the water, then come home and realize just how tired you were.”
Coleman said the idea of Operation Dry Water isn’t to spoil anyone’s good time, but is aimed at making sure it’s a safe time as well. Officers may pull over a boat for a variety of reasons and decide to conduct a safety check, especially if the operator has been driving erratically.
Coleman said increased river and lake patrols will also be done during the next few days and on the Fourth of July as so many are off work and on the water.
“We’ll especially be heavily patrolling fireworks displays,” he said. “A lot of people like to watch the fireworks from a boat, so we’ll have a sharp eye out for safety problems at those events.”