Deputies out looking for drunk boaters, jet skiers

BENTON COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE NEWS RELEASE -- The Benton County Sheriff's Office and the Washington State Parks Boating Programs want your support by taking the pledge to NEVER operate a boat while under the influence of drugs or alcohol during the Operation Dry Water campaign on June 27-29.

Operation Dry Water (ODW) is a national boating under the influence (BUI) campaign developed by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators and the United States Coast Guard. Now in its sixth year, ODW partners with the recreational boaters, as well as local, state and federal law enforcement agencies to bring attention to the dangers of drinking and boating. ODW encourages boaters to pledge to make wise decisions about alcohol use, and NEVER drink while boating. The Benton County Sheriff's Department will have extra deputies and boats on the water specifically targeting impaired boaters during the campaign this weekend, and strongly urge you to never consume alcohol or drugs while operating a vessel.

The campaign focuses on preventing accidents, injuries and deaths resulting from people abusing alcohol or drugs while operating boats. The 2013 U.S. Coast Guard Recreational Boating Statistics stated that, alcohol is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents; it was listed as the leading factor in 16 percent of deaths. According to Washington State Parks Boating Programs, between 2007 and 2013, at least 36 people died in reportable boating accidents where alcohol use was a contributing factor.

As with drinking and driving, boating while intoxicated is illegal. "Alcohol is as hazardous on water as it is on land. Whether or not you are the driver of the boat, boating under the influence is a bad idea," stated Deputy Tom Morton. Besides the obvious hazards to other boaters, boating under the influence is an arrestable offense, and carries a penalty of up to 365 days in jail and/or a $5,000 fine.

Boaters that would like to show their support for the campaign can Take the Pledge to NEVER boat under the influence through the Operation Dry Water website at

under the "Boaters" section. Boaters that choose to take the pledge are dedicating to stay safe and sober while boating. The site also provides information tailored specifically for the boating public including BUI fast facts, social media information, an impairment chart estimator, and other information on the dangers of boating under the influence.

The Washington State Parks Boating Safety Program is a leader in boating safety and environmental education and outreach, with the purpose of reducing accidents and fatalities, increasing stewardship of Washington waterways, and keeping recreational boating a safe, accessible and enjoyable pastime.

For more information on boating regulations, visit

The National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) is a national nonprofit organization that works to develop public policy for recreational boating safety. NASBLA represents the recreational boating authorities of all 50 states and the U.S. territories. The association offers a variety of resources, including training, model acts, education standards and publications. Through a national network of thousands of professional educators, law enforcement officers and volunteers, NASBLA affects the lives of over 83 million American boaters.