Maine Marine Patrol to Focus on Boating Under the Influence and Boating Safety During 4th Weekend

Augusta - The Maine Marine Patrol will be looking out for anyone violating Maine's boating under the influence laws and sharing safety information during the national Operation Dry Water weekend, July 3-July 5.

Operation Dry Water is a national awareness and enforcement campaign coordinated by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) that focuses on deterring boaters from boating under the influence (BUI) of drugs or alcohol.

"Marine Patrol Officers will be conducting patrols on Maine's coastal waters from Kittery to the Canadian border focused on boaters who may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs," said Maine Marine Patrol Major Rob Beal.

Nationally, alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in fatal recreational boating accidents. According to the US Coast Guard, in 2018, where the primary cause was known, alcohol use was the leading factor in 19 percent of boater deaths.

"Boating under the influence is a completely preventable crime," said Major Beal. "The Maine Marine Patrol strongly encourages boaters to stay safe by staying sober while boating."

Environmental stressors such as wind, noise, and the movement of the boat while on the water intensify the effects of alcohol or drug use on an individual while boating. Boaters can become impaired more quickly on the water than on land.

Operating a boat with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or higher is against the law in Maine. BUI laws pertain to all vessels, from rowboats and kayaks to the largest ships.

In 2019, 736 local, state, and federal agencies participated in Operation Dry Water. Over the three-day heightened awareness and enforcement weekend law enforcement officers contacted 271,286 boaters, made 563 BUI arrests, and issued 34,976 citations and warnings for safety violations.

In 2019 the Maine Marine Patrol checked hundreds of recreational boats during Operation Dry Water details along the Maine coast, which resulted in 30 citations for boating violations and three boating under the influence cases.

"Not only did we successfully enforce our boating safety and boating under the influences laws, we took the opportunity to talk with a lot of people about the importance of boating sober and safely, and we will do the same this year," said Major Beal.

"Marine Patrol will encourage safe boating practices, especially the importance of wearing life jackets," said Major Beal. According to 2018 US Coast Guard statistics, 84.5 percent of drowning victims were not wearing a life jacket.

In Maine, all children 10 and under must wear a life jacket. Adults don't have to wear them, but they must be available on board for every occupant.

"Marine Patrol officers will also be sharing the safety message with paddlers. Maines ocean temperatures, even in the height of the summer, can be extremely cold, and the weather can change very quickly," said Major Beal. "We strongly encourage paddlers to dress for the water temperature, not the air temperature. We also urge paddlers to check with organizations like the Maine Association of Sea Kayak Guide Instructors for information on safe paddling."

In addition, Marine Patrol will continue to share the following guidance with recreational boaters to prevent the spread of coronavirus:

• Stay at least 6 feet away from others on the water, on the boat, and on land.

• Don't share equipment.

• Avoid using boat ramps and docks while other people are on them.

• When launching and loading your boat, give people ahead of you plenty of time and space to finish launching or loading before you approach.

• After fueling, wash your hands with soap and water or, if soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

• Do not touch your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.

• Sanitize equipment with EPA registered products after each trip paying particular attention to high-touch surfaces (handholds & grab bars, rails, hatch latches & lids, and coolers).

If you are planning to take part in a guided boat or fishing trip, COVID-19 prevention guidance for those businesses, in the form of checklists, can be found at https://www.maine.gov/decd/covid-19-prevention-checklists

More information on Maines COVID-19 response can be found at https://www.maine.gov/covid19/

For more information on recreational boating safety, visit the Maine Department of Marine Resources website at http://www.maine.gov/dmr/marine-patrol/recboatingsafety.html

For more information on Operation Dry Water, please visit operationdrywater.org.