Wildlife officials will heavily patrol the state’s waters over Fourth of July weekend
By Mindy Wharton
Wildlife Law Enforcement Officers with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission will participate in a nationwide campaign July 2 – 4 called Operation Dry Water. The mission of the nationally coordinated effort is to promote sobriety while boating and educate boaters about the dangers of boating while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
“Fourth of July weekend is historically one of the busiest boating weekends of the year in North Carolina. Wildlife Law Enforcement Officers will be patrolling the state’s waterways in an effort reduce the number of alcohol and drug related incidents and fatalities,” said Lt. Forrest Orr with the Wildlife Commission. “By participating in the nationwide Operation Dry Water campaign, we will be able to educate boaters on the dangers associated with boating while impaired. We want everyone to have a safe, enjoyable holiday, but if alcohol is involved, designate a sober operator to get everyone home safely.”
During last year’s campaign, Wildlife Law Enforcement Officers issued 693 warnings, 440 citations and removed 55 people from the water who were boating under the influence. In North Carolina, a driver or vessel operator with a blood-alcohol concentration that meets or exceeds .08, or is substantially impaired by alcohol and/or drugs, is subject to arrest.
Drinking affects the skills necessary to operate a boat, including:
Peripheral vision and ability to focus.
Judgment and rational decision-making.
Balance and equilibrium.
Coordination and reaction time. Officials also want to stress the importance of other safe practices while on the water. So far this year, 39 boating incidents have occurred in North Carolina; ten were fatal. Wildlife officials urge boaters to take notice and boat responsibly.
“Wearing a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket is the best way to be prepared should you be involved in a boating incident,” said Orr. “Not wearing a life vest is a contributing factor in many fatal incidents, including drowning of people who know how to swim. Last year in North Carolina, 16 boaters lost their lives due to not wearing a life jacket."
Boating at night typically increases during holiday weekends, so boaters should practice caution and be on high alert due to reduced visibility. Inland lighting rules are in effect and water skiing is prohibited between one hour after sunset and one hour before sunrise. Personal watercraft are prohibited on state waters between sunset and sunrise. For more information about boating safety classes and general boating in North Carolina, visit the boating webpage.