Louisiana enforcement agents will be on the water in force this weekend (June 24-26) looking for those operating boats under the influence of alcohol, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries announced.

The push is part of "Operation Dry Water," and is an effort to lower the number of alcohol-related boating accidents in Louisiana.

Any boat operator verified to have a blood alcohol content of .08 or more is considered drunk understate law, and will be arrested for operating a boat while intoxicated, LDWF said.

"We want people to be safe and have fun while boating recreationally," Lt. Col. Jeff Mayne said. "But alcohol use has become the leading contributing factor in fatal recreational boating accidents.

"We recommend that boaters avoid drinking alcoholic beverages at all times, and we will have zero tolerance for anyone found operating a boat under the influence of alcohol or drugs on our waters."

Alcohol can impair a boater's judgment, balance, vision and reaction time. It can increase fatigue and susceptibility to the effects of cold-water immersion. Sun, wind, noise, vibration and motion intensify the side effects of alcohol, drugs and some prescription medications.

Louisiana had 32 boating fatalities in 2009, with alcohol being the leading primary cause in 24 percent of the accidents. Nationwide, statistics from 2009 reveal that 16 percent of all boat incident fatalities were a direct result of alcohol or drug use.

Impaired boaters caught this weekend can expect penalties to be severe. In Louisiana, a DWI on the water carries the same penalties and fines as on the road and includes jail time, fines and loss of driving and boating operator privileges.

LDWF agents issued 216 DWI citations to boat operators in 2009. Anyone cited for a DWI on the water or on the road will lose his or her driver's license and boating privileges for the specified time ordered by the judge in the case. Also, each offense of operating a vehicle or vessel while intoxicated counts toward the total number of DWI crimes whether they happened on the water or road.

In Louisiana a DWI can be issued to anyone operating a moving vessel or vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher. First offense DWI carries a $300 to $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail. Second offense DWI brings a $750 to $1,000 fine and between 30 days and six months in jail. Third offense DWI carries a $5,000 fine and between one and five years in jail.
"There will be arrests this weekend, and some boaters will face the consequences of operating a boat while impaired," Mayne said.  "But we'd much rather arrest someone than to have to tell their friends and family they're never coming back."

Operation Dry Water was started in 2009, and is a joint program involving the LDWF/LED, the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) and the U.S. Coast Guard.  More information is available at www.operationdrywater.org.