NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) is getting ready to launch its Operation Dry Water campaign. It’s been running since 2009 with the intent to raise awareness about the dangers of impaired boating.
In Tennessee, it is illegal to operate a vessel with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 or higher.
Matt Majors is a TWRA boating investigator. He told News 2 this campaign creates a strong impact across the country. This year, the campaign runs from July 3-5.
“Our states that participate, which are all of them, have arrested over 4,100 impaired boat operators just in this one weekend alone. So, it’s a very big impact nationally to remove those impaired operators. But more importantly, we want to let everybody know don’t drive about impaired, it’s just like driving on the roadways. It’s the same thing.”
Law enforcement officers have made contact with more than 1.5 million boaters during the annual three-day weekend. During this time, the TWRA, National Association of State Boating Law Administrators and the U.S. Coast Guard will participate. Majors said the holiday weekend is an ideal time to remind the public about boating safety.
“People don’t view boating under the influence as a crime. It’s almost a perspective thing because there are no speed limits, no stop signs. You can go wherever you want to on the water, so they just don’t view it as the same. But I try to tell everyone is that if you crash into somebody and injure or kill somebody in a car, it’s the same crime it would be on the waterways if you do it,” Majors explained.
TWRA officials said there are simple things people can do to decrease their chances of being hurt or killed on the water. In fact, 84% of people who drown in a recreational boating incident aren’t wearing a life jacket. Majors said this is inexcusable.
“There are a lot of options nowadays that there didn’t used to be very comfortable around the neck, inflatable life jackets and some that you wear around your belt. So, being hot is not really an excuse anymore. It’s just like a seat belt. You know, you’re only going to need it that one time, and you’re not going to have the time to make that decision to put that on in the heat of the moment.
But officers still see people drinking and driving a boat every year.
“About 30% of those have alcohol or drugs as a contributing factor in that crash. Just like the roadways, we want to stop impaired boating, because if we don’t catch them before they get back to the vehicle, then those impaired boaters become impaired drivers on our roadways,” Majors said.
Majors told News 2 it never gets easier to tell a family whose lost a loved one that their death could have been prevented.
“Part of our officers job statewide is working with those families and trying to find the answers of why these incidents occur. And we’ve sat down with many families, after the investigations have concluded and it’s pretty tough to tell those families that this was very preventable. You know, operating a boat under the influence is 100% preventable in my opinion. So, it is it’s hard to swallow for those families that a life has been taken or somebody has been injured by the careless acts of another.”
Operation Dry Water is a year-round boating under the influence and enforcement campaign. To learn more about the campaign, click here.