Environmental Police and Coast Guard are watching

The U.S. Coast Guard will beef up patrols during the holiday weekend. -Courtesy U.S. Coast Guard District 1

In separate press releases on Friday, the Massachusetts Environmental Police and U.S. Coast Guard warned boaters not to drink and drive on the water.

Called Operation Dry Water, the nationwide campaign seeks to reduce the number of individuals boating while under the influence (BUI), according to the release from the Environmental Police.

“The Fourth of July offers an excellent time for us all to get outside, enjoy the water with friends and family, and celebrate the holiday; however, we all must remain responsible while boating to ensure the operator, passengers, and those around us enjoy a safe experience,” Massachusetts Environmental Police Colonel Shaun Santos said in a press release. “Importantly, the Massachusetts Environmental Police and other public safety entities will be strongly enforcing the Commonwealth’s BUI law in an effort to reduce tragic incidents from occurring.”

The U.S. Coast Guard estimates that approximately 5,265 recreational boating accidents took place in 2020, which led to the unfortunate death of 767 individuals, 3,191 injuries, and cost approximately $62.5 million of property damage, according to the release. Of the 767 fatalities, 75 percent were caused due to drowning. Furthermore, of those who drowned, 86 percent were not wearing a lifejacket.

According to the Coast Guard release, there is evidence that boating activity increased significantly during the pandemic, from reports of increased boat sales, insurance policies taken out, insurance claims, and calls for towing assistance. With the increased exposure, there was greater risk of deaths, injuries, and accidents.

“Alcohol continued to be the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents in 2020, accounting for over 100 deaths, or 18 percent of total fatalities,” the release states.”Boaters should never operate a vessel or paddlecraft under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and should always wear a life jacket.”