The Departments of Natural Resources in both states bordering the St. Croix River have announced they will have extra law enforcement patrols on lakes and rivers this holiday weekend. Minnesota and Wisconsin are taking part in the nationwide “Operation Dry Water” campaign to reduce boating while intoxicated.
Alcohol is the number one factor in boating fatalities. More than half of the boating fatalities in Minnesota last year involved intoxicated drivers. Boat passengers are also warned that alcohol can lead to increased accidents, and is involved in most drownings in the country.
“We have absolutely no tolerance for boaters who choose to operate while under the influence. They endanger their own lives, but also the lives of every other boater on the water,” said Lt. Adam Block, Minnesota DNR Enforcement boating law administrator. “The penalties associated with boating under the influence have never been higher, but they pale in comparison to losing your life or ending someone else’s life because of a choice you made.”
The legal blood alcohol level is 0.08 in both Minnesota and Wisconsin. In Minnesota, a boating under the influence conviction can also result in driver’s license being suspended.
Boaters are also urged to wear life jackets. The majority of boating deaths happen because people are not wearing life jackets.
“We want to make sure that everyone on the water has a safe and enjoyable holiday weekend,” said Lt. Darren Kuhn, Wisconsin DNR Boating Law Administrator. “This means that all operators and passengers should boat sober all season long. Boating under the influence is a 100% preventable crime. Whether you’re driving the boat or enjoying it as a passenger, being under the influence can cause slips, falls overboard and other dangerous incidents. Stay safe by boating sober and always wearing a life jacket.”
This weekend, both state agencies will partner with local law enforcement to increase patrols and education. Since Operation Dry Water began in 2009, law enforcement have caught nearly 5,000 boaters operating under the influence.