The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission will lead statewide efforts for Operation Dry Water, the fourth annual national campaign to prevent alcohol-related boating accidents.
Law enforcement officers from local, state and federal agencies will be out in force June 22-24 to remind boaters that it is unsafe, as well as illegal, to operate a boat under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.
In North Carolina, penalties for boating while impaired can include fines up to $1,000 and jail.
“But the greater peril is having an accident,” said Maj. Chris Huebner, operations supervisor with the Wildlife Commission and the state boating safety coordinator. “North Carolina ranks 7th nationally for fatal boating accidents and 9th for boating accidents and boating injuries.”
Operation Dry Water is coordinated by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators and the U.S. Coast Guard. In North Carolina, Operation Dry Water is incorporated into the state’s “On the Road, On the Water, Don’t Drink and Drive” campaign.
Maj. Huebner said that drinking adversely affects the skills necessary to operate a vessel. He warned that, even at levels below legal intoxication, alcohol affects:
- Peripheral vision and ability to focus
- Judgment and rational decision-making
- Balance and equilibrium
- Coordination and reaction time
“Wind and waves, combined with heat, glare, motor noise and vibration can create a condition known as ‘boater fatigue,’” Huebner said. “This can magnify the effects of alcohol on an individual up to three times.”
Wildlife officers with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission are charged with enforcing the boating laws and regulations on public waterways. They can routinely stop vessels for safety checks or violations. The goal of this enforcement is always safety. For more information on recreational boating in North Carolina, click here.