Drunk Boating Rhode Island

High-Visibility Boating Patrols Planned by DEM Environmental Police Over July 4th Weekend

As the Fourth of July weekend approaches, Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay and other waterways will soon be bustling with boaters. In anticipation, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM), in partnership with the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) and the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), is urging boaters to stay sober. The agencies are stepping up enforcement efforts as part of a national crackdown on impaired boating.

The annual Operation Dry Water campaign aims to reduce alcohol- and drug-related boating accidents and fatalities, deter substance use on the water, and raise awareness about the dangers of impaired boating. DEM’s Environmental Police Officers will increase patrols from Wednesday, July 4, through Saturday, July 6, specifically targeting boaters under the influence. Last year, law enforcement officers from 488 agencies nationwide removed 717 impaired operators from waterways during the Operation Dry Water weekend.

“The tragedies that happen on our waterways because individuals choose to boat while impaired are totally preventable,” said Deputy Chief Michael Schipritt of DEM’s Division of Law Enforcement. “Our goal is to not only educate boaters on the dangers of impaired boating but also to remind them of other safe boating practices, such as enrolling in a boater education course and always wearing a life jacket.”

Throughout the three-day campaign, DEM and other law enforcement agencies will be vigilant, looking for impaired boaters and removing them from the water. The campaign includes heightened awareness messaging about the dangers of boating under the influence, along with an increased number of officers on the water. Since its inception, Operation Dry Water has removed 6,869 impaired operators from waterways and reached over 2.8 million boaters.

Boating impairment can be more dangerous than driving impairment due to the unique challenges of boating. Factors such as sun, wind, noise, vibration, and motion can amplify the effects of alcohol, drugs, and some medications, making boating under the influence particularly hazardous.

Boaters should also be mindful of the latest safety regulations, designed to save lives. Violations can result in a $100 ticket. Current Personal Flotation Device (PFD) regulations require all operators and passengers of canoes, kayaks, sailboards, kiteboards, paddleboards, and other paddle craft to wear a USCG-approved PFD while underway, regardless of age. Other regulations prohibit riding on the bow of a powerboat unless equipped with bow seats and restrict passengers from hanging feet and legs over the gunwale while underway.

Boaters must also slow down and move over for emergency vessels within 300 feet displaying activated emergency lights. Additionally, fire extinguishers on boats must comply with their age expiration date, typically printed on the bottom of the extinguisher. Finally, boats 26 feet or shorter equipped with an engine cut-off switch must use the switch when on plane or above displacement speed.

For more information on Rhode Island boating laws, visit www.dem.ri.gov/safeboating.




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