Operation Dry Water to crack down on impaired boating

Posted at 4:53 PM, Jul 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-02 18:15:22-04

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — With the arrival of the Fourth of July comes an increase in boating. And while being out on the water can be a lot of fun, it takes a clear head to keep everyone safe. That's why the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is bringing back Operation Dry Water.

Tennesseans can expect to see more officers patrolling the water this weekend to remove impaired boaters.

Clarksville Police, along with the Montgomery County Sheriff's office and the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency, will all have crews on patrol this weekend.

The patrols focus on finding any impaired boater and getting them out of the water.

Just like driving a car, operating a boat with a Blood Alcohol Content of .08 or higher is illegal.

A new law also increases penalties for boating under the influence. It makes a BUI conviction equivalent to a driving under the influence (DUI) conviction.

Now, if someone is convicted of a BUI and is later convicted of driving under the influence, they could be punished the same as if they were guilty of two DUIS.

"As a captain of a vessel, you're not only responsible for yourself but for all of your passengers and the rest of your community that's out there on the water," said Captain Todd Radabaugh, BUI Training Program Manager. "So, make a choice; boat safe, boat sober, get a designated operator and help spread the word."

Mandy Larson has a personal connection to boating safety efforts. Her 21-year-old son Nick was killed while riding on a boat driven by an impaired driver who hit a barge at top speed. Larson said she thinks this work is just the beginning on the path to saving more lives.

"When we met before the D.A., in the D.A.'s office, I was heartbroken.  I had no idea that there was a chance that he wouldn't get any jail time. So, it's surprising; it's shocking, and it was heartbreaking," Larson said.

She asks that everyone boating have a plan, and anyone whose plan includes drinking should also have a designated driver.

According to U.S. Coast Guard Recreational Boating Statistics 2020, alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating incidents. Where the primary cause was known, it was listed as the leading factor in 18% of deaths.

Operation Dry Water runs through the Fourth of July.