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Drinking and boating not just dangerous, but penalties are stiffer now

With extra patrols, you can now lose boater education card for 3 years

SALEM, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The Oregon State Marine Board, marine law enforcement from 18 county sheriff’s offices, Oregon State Police and five Oregon U.S. Coast Guard Stations will be participating in Operation Dry Water during the weekend of July 3-5, as part of a nationally coordinated effort to reduce the number of accidents and fatalities related to Boating Under the Influence of Intoxicants (BUII). 

“We have multiple patrols scheduled this season to catch impaired boat operators,” says Randy Henry, Boating Safety Program Manager for the Marine Board. “We also have new tools. The Legislature gave us the authority in 2020 to take your boater education card for up to three years, if convicted.”

Many marine officers have completed specialized training to recognize alcohol and drug impairment. This includes prescription drugs, alcohol, inhalants, marijuana, or any other substance that impairs a person’s ability to make sound judgments and to safely operate a boat. 

The effects of drugs and alcohol are also amplified on the water with the combination of sun glare, wind, waves, and other environmental stressors.  Alcohol also dehydrates the body making sudden immersion into cold water at an even greater risk for drowning. 

Impaired boaters can expect to be arrested or face serious penalties.  In Oregon, the consequences of being convicted of BUII include the possibility of jail time, $6,250 in fines, loss of boating privileges and a one to three-year suspension of the boater education card and potentially being court-mandated to take another boating safety course.

Marine officers can arrest boaters on observed impairment and can legally obtain blood, breath or urine if a boater fails field sobriety testing.  Officers have already arrested three people for BUII this year and at least two fatalities appear to have involved alcohol or drugs. 

“Overall, recreational boating is safe if boaters wear life jackets, boat sober, and keep a sharp lookout," Henry said. "Waterways are becoming more crowded with a variety of mixed boating and other activities, so it’s important to pay attention to what’s going on around you and to follow the navigation rules of the road. 

"If boaters changed two things; wear life jackets and abstain from impairing substances, accidents would be rare,” says Henry. “We’re facing a high number of boating fatalities already this year, just from cold water and life jackets not being worn. We really want to keep alcohol and drugs out of the mix, or we’ll be at record high fatalities for 2020. We want to ensure that boating remains safe and fun.”

Henry goes on to say, “The public is our ally in safe boating.  If you see an impaired operator or someone who is operating in a way that threatens others’ safety, call 911 and report it.  That’s how we can work together to save lives.”  

For more information about Operation Dry Water, visit www.operationdrywater.org.

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The Marine Board is directly funded by boaters in the form of registration, title, and permit fees, as well as through marine fuel taxes. No lottery, general fund tax dollars or local facility parking fees support the agency or its programs. Boater-paid fees support the boating public through boating safety services (on-the-water law enforcement, training, and equipment), boating safety education, grants for the construction and maintenance of boating access facilities, and environmental protection programs. For more information about the Marine Board and its programs, visit www.boatoregon.com.

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  1. I grew up right by a recreational lake before drinking laws were a thing. the lake was always packed, everyone on/in it was drunker than waltzing piss ants and there were hardly any boat accidents or drownings. the only people who ever wore life jackets in those days were combat duty sailors and those who couldn’t swim. i’m not saying the drunk patrols dont help, there are way more people out on the waters than in the 60s. but I think a lot more lives could be saved by swimming classes before swimming season. swimming is easy if you are in shape for it, but if you are not you can get in trouble fast. besides being out of shape they dont know what to do if they get in trouble, instead of relaxing to rest they panic. its great to let the folks know about being drunk and stupid, but some preparedness warnings/classes would be worth while

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