State and local law enforcement agencies will join forces to conduct boating under the influence (BUI) emphasis patrols on waterways across Washington, from Memorial Day weekend through Aug. 19.
The Washington state Parks Boating Program and Washington Department Fish and Wildlife Police and city and county marine patrol units around the state are working together to remind boaters of the risks of boating while impaired by drugs or alcohol.
In Washington state, it is illegal to use any substance that impairs a person’s ability to operate a boat.
Emphasis patrols take place during peak times on the following waterways:
• June 30 through July 2, statewide, for the national Operation Dry Water
• July 4, at Lake Tapps in Pierce County, on Fourth of July.
• July 28 and 29, at Kennewick and Pasco, on the Columbia River, for the Tri-City Water Follies , Columbia Cup.
• Aug. 3 through 6, on Lake Washington, in Seattle, for SeaFair.
• Aug. 4 and 5, at Lake Roosevelt on the Columbia River, for the Poker Run.
• Aug. 18 and 19, Vancouver, on the Columbia River.
“For many Washingtonians, quality of life is connected to playing outside and spending time on our waterways,” said WDFW Deputy Chief Mike Cenci. “Why put great memories and people’s lives at risk by being impaired? Being a competent, vigilant and sober vessel operator is your responsibility, and it can make the difference between an incredible experience and tragedy.”
“It is never safe to operate a boat under the influence,” said Wade Alonzo, State Parks Boating Law Administrator. “Boat operators are responsible for the safety and well-being of everyone on board. We urge boaters to designate a sober skipper before heading out on the water.”
According to the U.S. Coast Guard’s 2015 Recreational Boating Statistics report, boating under the influence is the leading known contributing factor in recreational boating fatalities.
In Washington state, alcohol and drugs were a contributing factor in almost 30 percent of boating fatalities and 18 percent of boating injuries between 2005 and 2011. The state has seen a slight decline since strengthening the BUI law in 2013; however, alcohol and drugs were a still factor in 18 percent of the state’s boating fatalities last year.
State law allows law enforcement officers to require suspected intoxicated boaters to submit to 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. The BUI law applies to all boats, including kayaks, canoes, rowboats and inflatable fishing rafts.
To support BUI patrol efforts, WDFW Police and the State Parks Boating Program collaborated on a custom trailer specially retrofitted as a mobile-processing center and command. The trailer is equipped with breath-testing instruments, a holding cell and two work stations. When supporting BUI emphasis patrols, the trailer is staffed by officers who assist marine patrol units by quickly processing impaired boat operators on site. WDFW Police maintain ownership of the trailer, but it will be made available for use by city and county marine patrol units around the state.
The Washington state Parks and Recreation Commission administers the state’s Boating Program, which provides leadership in boating safety and environmental education and outreach. The goal of the program is to reduce accidents and fatalities, increase stewardship of Washington waterways.
For more information on the Boating Program, visit washingtonstateparks.us/Boating.