Augusta - The Maine Marine Patrol will once again 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 2-July 4. 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 along the coast 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. According to the US Coast Guard, in 2021, alcohol use was the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents in the US.
'Boating under the influence is a preventable crime," said Major Beal. "The Maine Marine Patrol strongly encourages boaters to stay safe by staying sober while boating."
Environmental stressors such as sun, 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.
More than 575 local, state and federal law enforcement agencies participated in the 2021 Operation Dry Water campaign across the US. Over the course of the campaigns heightened awareness and enforcement weekend, July 3 - 5, more than 7,518 law enforcement officers made 638 arrests for boating under the influence (BUI).
In 2021 the Maine Marine Patrol checked hundreds of recreational boats during Operation Dry Water details along the Maine coast, which resulted in no BUI citations but did result in detection of 34 recreational boating violations.
"We always take the opportunity to talk with a lot of boaters about the importance of boating sober and safely, and we will do the same this year," said Major Beal.
"Marine Patrol will also encourage safe boating practices, especially the importance of wearing life jackets," said Major Beal. According to 2021 US Coast Guard statistics, 83 percent of drowning victims in recreational boating accidents 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 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 wear a life jacket at all times while on the water, file a float plan, have proper communications and navigation equipment, and check the weather before you go."
"Paddlers should also check with organizations like the Maine Association of Sea Kayak Guides and Instructors for information on safe paddling," said Major Beal.
For more information on recreational boating safety, visit the Maine Department of Marine Resources website at https://www.maine.gov/dmr/rules-enforcement/marine-patrol/recreational-boating-safety
For more information on Operation Dry Water, please visit https://www.nasbla.org/operationdrywater/home