PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — As we kick off the Fourth of July weekend, the warmer and sunny weather means boats will be all throughout Narragansett Bay and other Rhode Island waterways.
The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and the US Coast Guard are urging boaters to be responsible and not operate their boats under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Both agencies have announced they’re ramping up enforcement as part of a national crackdown on impaired boating.
Environmental police and the Coast Guard will be conducting increased patrols from July 3-5 monitoring for boaters under the influence.
The annual Operation Dry Water campaign focuses on reducing the number of alcohol and drug-related accidents and fatalities, deterring alcohol and drug use on the water, and raising awareness of the seriousness of the problem.
Lt. Michael Schipritt, Boating Program Manager for DEM’s Division of Law Enforcement, says every year there are boating accidents and tragedies that could have been avoided had alcohol or drug use not been a factor.
“As part of the community ourselves, our job is to ensure that recreational boaters, paddlers and anyone on our waters has a safe place to enjoy time with their family and friends,” Schipritt said. “Alcohol use can impair a boater’s judgement, balance, vision and reaction time. That is why DEM’s Division of Law Enforcement is joining all 56 states and U.S. territories to do our part in keeping boaters safe and preventing accidents related to boating under the influence.”
There are nearly 40,000 registered boats in Rhode Island.
As of June 26, 2020, fatal boating accidents in the Northeast have doubled compared to this time last year. The Coast Guard has seen a nationwide increase of over 19% in fatal boating accidents this year when compared to the same time frame in 2019.
In 2019 Rhode Island environmental police officers joined over 7,500 other officers, 736 other state and federal agencies in this 72 hour of heightened BUI enforcement.