DNR Encourages Sober Boating With Operation Dry Water

22 June 2015
By Alex Hines, Lewis, Gilmer, Barbour and Randolph County Reporter

Many times, police around the country will be called out to an accident caused by a drunk driver, but accidents on boats due to alcohol aren't nearly as common. That's why the Division of Natural Resources is joining with other states around the country this weekend to make sure people stay as safe on a boat as they do in their cars.

The initiative comes at an opportune time in the viewing area after a Cheat Lake boating accident, where the driver was drinking, injured 12 people last month.

"Operation Dry Water is a nationwide event that, the agencies responsible for water patrol, they pick this one weekend where they can draw attention to and focus on boating under the influence. You've heard of click it and ticket programs that they use on the highway, this is the water's version of that," said Natural Resources Sergeant David James.

In West Virginia, the legal thresholds for driving under the influence and boating under the influence are the same. A blood alcohol content of more than .08 percent is too much to be operating a vehicle. But boating penalties are actually harsher, and boaters can reach that limit faster than drivers can.

"You have the wave action, the noise of the boat, the sun, and just the environment, and when you add alcohol to it, it just compounds the effects. So what we're asking you to do, if you are going to drink on a boat, make sure you have a sober skipper, a sober operator," James said.

While accidents on water may sound safer, it's not always the case. James said all it takes is a little preparation to stay as safe as possible, especially should an accident occur.

"It's kind of a double-edged sword. You may hit water, which may be softer, but if you don't have one of these on, and you're knocked unconscious, you're going to drown, basically. So this is where step one comes in, always wear your life jacket," said James.