Drinking alcohol and boating are never a good mix, but it could be an especially poor decision this weekend on state waterways.
Enforcement agents with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries will be taking part in Operation Dry Water, with increased patrols through Sunday checking for boater safety and operators driving while intoxicated.
“Alcohol use and operating a vessel don’t mix. We want people to treat a boat the same way they would a vehicle when it comes to having a sober operator,” Lt. Col. Sammy Martin, the state’s boating law administrator, said. “We want people to have fun on the water, but we also want them to come home safely.”
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 22 boating fatalities in 2014, with alcohol playing a role in four fatalities, according to a news release. Nationwide, statistics from 2015 reveal that 17 percent of all boat incident fatalities listed alcohol as a contributing factor.
LDWF agents issued three DWI citations to boat operators during the 2015 Operation Dry Water weekend, and five DWI citations during the same weekend in 2014.
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.
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 while impaired. First-offense DWI carries a $300 to $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail, the release states.