WALLA WALLA - The Walla Walla County Sheriff's Office and safety advocates across the state are asking boaters to help keep everyone safe this Independence Day weekend by not consuming alcohol or marijuana while out on the water - especially when operating a boat or paddle craft.
As boaters prepare for the Fourth of July holiday, law enforcement agencies are preparing for 'Operation Dry Water,' a nationally coordinated effort that focuses on boating-under-the-influence (BUI) awareness and enforcement. Boaters will notice an increase in patrols from July 2-4, 2021.
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, boating under the influence is the leading known contributing factor in fatal recreational boating accidents.
In Washington state, it is illegal to use any substance that impairs a person's ability to operate a boat. The law applies to all boats, including kayaks, canoes, stand up paddleboards, rowboats, and inflatable fishing rafts.
Some key things for boaters to know include:
- State law allows law enforcement officers to require boaters suspected of operating a boat while intoxicated to submit a breath or blood test.
- Refusing to submit to a test is a civil infraction with a maximum fine of $2,050.
- The penalty for operating a boat under the influence is a gross misdemeanor punishable by a maximum fine of $5,000 and 364 days in jail.
- Additionally, a BUI is considered a prior offense if there are later convictions for driving under the influence (DUI).
- Just like operating a vehicle, the Per Se Limit for blood alcohol concentration is .08% while operating a vessel.
Boaters can learn more about BUI laws in Washington State and about the risks of boating under the influence by visiting boatsober.org.