Officials Stepping Up Enforcement To Curb Drinking On The Water Over Holiday

Operation Dry Water Seeks To Cut Back Alcohol-Related Accidents

Michael Pereckas (CC-BY)

People taking to the water around the July 4 holiday are likely to see more enforcement as part of Operation Dry Water. The annual nationwide campaign seeks to cut back on the number of drug or alcohol-related accidents on the water.

Alcohol was listed as the leading factor in 15 percent of boating deaths last year, according Chris Yaw, spokesman for the U.S. Coast Guard.

“We want people to have a good time and we want people to enjoy the Great Lakes because it’s a great resource for having fun,” Yaw said. “But, we want them to do it safe, and, not only to keep them safe, but keep our crews safe and keep their fellow boaters safe.”

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Yaw said alcohol-related boating deaths did drop 2 percent from 2015. Dave Zebro, regional conservation warden with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, said they’ll have more wardens out on inland lakes looking for impaired boaters.

“When people are operating boats, there’s not stop signs. There’s not stop lights indicating when people can pass and go. There’s obviously rules of the road out on the water, but you have to be very cognizant,” he said. “There’s so many different types of craft and people on the water that it really behooves us to make sure that we have all of our faculties with us and that we’re paying attention. These accidents can happen so quickly.”

The number of boating deaths due to alcohol has dropped about 24 percent nationwide since Operation Dry Water began in 2009.

Around 6,200 officers from federal, state and local agencies issued just under 5,000 citations as part of the campaign last year. In Wisconsin, 20 people died and 72 were injured in boating accidents in 2016.