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Operation Dry Water

Law enforcement focuses on making Kentucky waterways safer

Conservation Officer Travis Neal of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources conducts a safety check on jet skiers at Lake Cumberland. Conservation Officer Travis Neal of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources conducts a safety check on jet skiers at Lake Cumberland.

By: Lee McClellan

From Kentucky Dept. of Fish and Wildlife Resources

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Conservation Officers with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources will team up with federal, state and local law enforcement officers to make Kentucky waterways safer for boaters during Operation Dry Water, June 28-30.

Held just prior to the Fourth of July holiday, the weekend is devoted to boating law enforcement and education. Last summer, Kentucky Conservation Officers contacted 3,893 boaters during Operation Dry Water. Officers made 26 arrests, issued 207 citations and gave 377 boating safety courtesy notices.

Launched in 2009 by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators and the U.S. Coast Guard, Operation Dry Water focuses on drawing attention to the hazards of Boating under the Influence (BUI).

“Alcohol slows reaction time and impairs the ability to make quick decisions,” said Zac Campbell, boating education coordinator for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “As the operator of the vessel you are responsible for the well being of everyone on board. You have to be alert.”

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, nearly 40 percent of boating-related fatalities are a result of alcohol use.

When the lake is crowded, boaters need to be especially careful when traveling at full power. “You never know when you have to take evasive action to avoid a collision. Not everyone obeys the rules,” said Campbell.

Sun, wind, noise, vibration and movement, which are common to the boating environment, cause fatigue which impacts a boat operator's coordination, judgment and reaction time when combined with alcohol intake. A boater is considered over the legal limit if a breathalyzer test reveals blood alcohol levels of 0.08 percent or higher. A BUI conviction can result in fines or jail time.

During Operation Dry Water, officers will be patrolling Kentucky’s lakes and rivers conducting courtesy boat inspections and answering questions about Kentucky’s boating laws. Safety messages will be posted at boat ramps.

Emphasis will also be placed on wearing life jackets, obeying boating laws and carrying all the required safety equipment onboard. A review of citations issued to boaters in recent years revealed that the top five violations were: expired boat registration, lack of adequate number of personal flotation devices (life jackets) on board, boating under the influence (BUI), going too fast in an idle speed only zone and the lack of a fire extinguisher on board.

“Wearing a life jacket is the most important step you can take to keep you and your family safe on the water,” said Campbell. “Your odds of surviving an unintentional fall overboard with a life jacket on are substantially higher.”

About 90 percent of all boating accident victims die as a result of drowning.

For more information on Operation Dry Water, visit their website at: www.operationdrywater.org.

Author Art Lander Jr. has been writing about the outdoors since the 1970s. He is a staff writer for Kentucky Afield Magazine.

The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources manages, regulates, enforces and promotes responsible use of all fish and wildlife species, their habitats, public wildlife areas and waterways for the benefit of those resources and for public enjoyment. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife is an agency of the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet. For more information on the department, visit our website at fw.ky.gov.

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