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Law enforcement spreads message of ‘Operation Dry Water’

Safety precautions heading into the holiday weekend
Published: Jul. 2, 2020 at 6:33 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -There were almost 20,000 more registered boats in June 2020, compared to June 2019, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR). With more people on state lakes, authorities are campaigning for safer waters.

“I think because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are a lot of extra people out boating this summer,” Elise Schaffer, Public Information Officer with the Dane County Sheriff’s Office said. “That adds to the number of people on the water and the traffic out there.”

Employees with the Wisconsin DNR said the pandemic has increased sales on motorboats, paddle boards, kayaks and canoes. With that larger number of people out on the water, many state agencies are sending a message of safety this holiday weekend.

It’s called Operation Dry Water. It starts Friday and runs through Sunday. The message from law enforcement: Don’t drink and drive a boat.

“We will be looking for impaired operation,” Wisconsin DNR Conservation Warden Jason Roberts said. “If there’s any indication when we contact you that there’s a level of impairment, just like on a roadway, you are going to be run through a battery of tests to determine if you are in fact intoxicated or impaired in some way.”

Some boaters and fisherman said it's not a risk they're willing to take.

“There are far too many people who do drink and drive on the water,” boater, Bart Leibfried said. “They don’t take it as seriously as when they’re in a car, but they should.”

“I don’t drink in the boat at all. things can happen just so fast,” another boater, Chris Cox said. “If you’re not paying attention, you can get knocked off if you hit something in the water, you can go into the water really fast, it’s dangerous sometimes and you have to be smart.”

If you are caught operating a boat while impaired, it could cost you up to $1000 dollars for your first violation. The legal limit for blood alcohol content (BAC) is the same for a motor vehicle and a water vessel, .08.

“It’s just as dangerous when you’re driving a boat while intoxicated,” Schaffer said.

Roberts also said no matter how good of a swimmer anyone is, you should always wear a life jacket.

So far this year, there have been more than 10 fatal boat crashes, Roberts said only one of those victims was wearing a life jacket.

Copyright 2020 WMTV. All rights reserved.

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