This weekend, TWRA officers are on the lookout for impaired boaters, whether that impairment is caused by alcohol or drugs.
Nationwide, Operation Dry Water is aiming to prevent accidents and fatalities and raise awareness of the dangers of boating under the influence by strictly enforcing BUI laws. Last year, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) officials made 13 BUI arrests statewide during Operation Dry Water.
So far in 2018, TWRA has made 34 BUI arrests. Officials ask boaters to be responsible and to designate a sober operator. It is illegal in Tennessee to operate a boat with a blood-alcohol content of .08 or higher.
TWRA’s Matthew Cameron said while that’s a legal threshold, lesser concentrations of alcohol in a person’s system might still cause impairment. “Someone could be at .06 or .07, be impaired and we can make an arrest for and successfully prosecute that if we can show that they were dangerous, they were impaired, they certainly didn’t need to be operating,” he said.
Cameron cautions there are conditions that exist on the water that might not be a factor on dry land. “Wave action is going affect your body; it’s going to affect your balance and coordination,” he said. “Adding alcohol to that, you’re only intensifying those effects. Also the sunlight, the glare on the water, is stressful on your body, stressful on your eyes.”
And while BUI arrests only apply to those operating registered engine-powered boats, TWRA urges those planning on canoeing or kayaking on the state’s waterways to take care, because Operation Dry Water would still apply. If you’re found impaired on the water, you may be cited for public intoxication.
“We have seen our [accident] numbers decrease on the Fourth of July weekend, so we are seeing success with it,” Cameron added.