ALAMEDA, Calif. — Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary crews throughout California will increase boating safety patrols during the July 4th holiday weekend in support of Operation Dry Water, a nationwide effort to enforce Boating Under the Influence (BUI) laws.
Operation Dry Water is aimed at raising awareness of the dangers of operating under the influence to help decrease the number of recreational boating accidents and deaths. It is illegal to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs in every state. Penalties for violating BUI laws include large fines, suspension or revocation of boat operator privileges and jail terms.
From Saturday through Tuesday, boaters can expect an increased presence from the Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary, who will be paying particular attention to recreational boating safety this weekend. The Auxiliary will be performing dockside safety equipment inspections, while the Coast Guard and its local law enforcement partners will be conducting boating safety boardings.
"Independence Day celebrations should be enjoyed responsibly and safely. As part of Operation Dry Water, we'll be increasing our patrols throughout California to enforce BUI laws and ensure a secure boating experience for all," said Rear Adm. Andrew Sugimoto, commander, Eleventh Coast Guard District. "Wearing a life jacket, filing a float plan, and most importantly, limiting alcohol consumption are simple precautions that can make a significant difference in boating safety. Stay safe and enjoy the Holiday!"
California has the fourth-largest number of recreational boats in the country and has the second-highest number of boating-related accidents and deaths, according to the Coast Guard’s 2021 statistics.
The 2022 Operation Dry Water campaign involved 630 agencies nationwide, with 7,865 officers making contact with 126,832 vessels and 350,472 boaters. These engagements resulted in 11,869 citations and 794 BUIs, with Coast Guard District 11 playing a crucial role in that. Alcohol use is the lead contributing factor in fatal boating accidents, accounting for the largest percentage reported fatalities.
The Coast Guard offers the following tips to help you enjoy a safe time on the water:
- Wear a life jacket. Make sure that there is at least one properly fitted life jacket for every passenger and that the life jackets are readily accessible if not worn. All children under 13 must always wear a life jacket.
- Don’t drink and boat. Aside from wearing a life jacket, not drinking and boating is one of the easiest ways to prevent accidental deaths on the water. People operating vessels under the influence of alcohol, drugs or impairing medication pose a serious threat to you and anyone else aboard.
- File a float plan. Before you get underway, leave information about your trip with a family member or a friend on shore. Include information that would help rescuers in case of an emergency—how many people are on board, where you are going, how long you will be out, and a description of your boat.
- Inspect your boat and equipment. Make sure your navigation equipment—particularly your navigational lights, if you plan to be out at night—is in good working order. Carry fire extinguishers, a first aid kit, charts of the area and an anchor. Get a free safety inspection from the Coast Guard Auxiliary to make sure you have all the gear and safety equipment required by your state and federal laws.
- Equip your boat with an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB). An EPIRB is a safety device that automatically transmits an emergency signal when it is placed or floating in an upright position. The signal allows the Coast Guard and other agencies to pinpoint your location.
- Carry a portable weatherproof marine band radio. Cell phones may go out of range or lose battery power when needed most. The Coast Guard, other agencies, and other boaters monitor marine band radios, increasing the number of people who can respond if you’re in trouble.
- Take a boating safety course. Approximately 80 percent of boating deaths occur on boats where the operator had no formal boating safety instruction. The Coast Guard recommends that all boaters take a safety class and a refresher every five years. The Coast Guard Auxiliary offers low-cost boating safety courses.
- Check the weather. Check daily weather reports, or listen to a marine band radio for sudden changes in weather conditions.
- Download the Coast Guard Boating Safety app. You can file a float plan, request assistance, request a vessel safety check, and report pollution and hazards to navigation.