Last year saw a spike in boating accidents, from 62 in 2015 to 82 in 2016, many involving alcohol and marijuana use. “To help marine officers prepare, we train them to recognize drug and alcohol impairment and arrest those operators –including those with paddles,” says Randy Henry, Boating Safety Manager for the Marine Board.
Boating under the influence of intoxicants means prescription drugs, alcohol, inhalants, marijuana, or any other substance that impairs a person’s ability to make sound judgments and have the ability to safely operate a boat. The effects of drugs and alcohol are also amplified on the water with the combination of sun, glare, wind, waves and other motion.
Impaired boaters can expect to be arrested or face serious penalties. In Oregon, the consequences of being convicted of BUII include the possibility of jail time, $6,250 in fines and loss of boating privileges. Marine officers can arrest boaters on observed impairment and can legally obtain blood, breath or urine if a boater fails field sobriety testing. So far this year, twelve people have been arrested for BUII and were operating on the Willamette River in Benton County, Upper Klamath Lake, Lake of the Woods, Crescent and Odell Lakes, Clackamas River, and Foster and Detroit Reservoirs.
“Overall, recreational boating is very safe if boaters wear life jackets, boat sober, and keep a sharp lookout by looking at what’s in front of them and what’s going on around them. If boaters followed these guidelines, accidents would be extremely rare. So far this year, the pattern for accidents includes impairment, distracted operation and no life jacket,” Henry warns. Henry goes on to say, “The public is our ally in safe boating. If you see an impaired operator or someone who is operating in a way that threatens others’ safety, call 911 and report it. That’s how we can work together to save lives.”
For more information about Operation Dry Water, visit www.operationdrywater.org or the Marine Board’s Boating Safety Program at www.boatoregon.com.