Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation

Press Release

June 24, 2010

Eileen Larrabee
Dan Keefe
518-486-1868

State Park Police on Lookout for Intoxicated Boaters

Avoiding alcohol and wearing life jackets key to safe boating

New York State Park Police will be on the lookout for intoxicated boaters across New York as part of Operation Dry Water, taking place during the weekend of June 25-27, 2010. Marine law enforcement units from state, county and local law enforcement agencies, the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators and the U.S. Coast Guard are joining together in an intensified effort to detect intoxicated boaters and enforce boating while intoxicated (BWI) laws.

"Alcohol contributes to 17 percent of boating-related fatalities each year – and it's not just intoxicated boaters whose lives are endangered," said Chief Richard O'Donnell, Director of Law Enforcement for the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. "All boating trips should have a qualified vessel operator who stays sober and looks out for the safety of their passengers – including making sure they wear life jackets."

O'Donnell noted that in addition to participating in Operation Dry Water, New York State Parks is partnering with the National Safe Boating Council throughout the summer on a "Wear It New York!" Campaign. The public education campaign, funded by the National Safe Boating Council, asks boaters to sign a pledge to wear their life jackets. Over 80 percent of recreational boating fatalities in the Northeast are the result of capsizing or falling overboard and, of these, close to 90 percent of the victims were not wearing a life jacket. In New York this year alone, there have been 13 boating fatalities – eight of whom entered the water unexpectedly and were not wearing life jackets. Had these individuals been wearing life jackets it is very likely they would have survived.

As part of "Wear It New York!" State Parks is reminding boaters that during the summer, all children under the age of 12 must wear a life jacket unless in a fully enclosed cabin or on a boat greater than 65 feet. All personal watercraft riders must wear a life jacket as well as anyone being towed behind a boat. All boats must have at least one life jacket (U.S. Coast Guard approved in good condition, proper size and readily accessible) for each person on board and a Type IV throwable device for motorboats greater than 16 feet in length.

"Boating is one of the most enjoyable ways to explore the state's beautiful lakes, rivers and canals. Don't let a pleasant day on the water turn tragic. The best way to make sure your excursion stays fun is to avoid mixing alcohol and boating and always wear a life jacket," said State Park Commissioner Carol Ash.

O'Donnell noted that New York State Park Police personnel on the waterways from Long Island to Thousand Islands and Niagara to the Hudson River as well as officers on shore at marinas and boat launches will be on the lookout for intoxicated boaters. Officers will be conducting BWI focused enforcement, saturation patrols, chemical (breath) tests, checkpoints and educational efforts.

Operating a recreational vessel with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of .08% or higher is against New York State law and federal law. Impaired boaters found to be boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs face fines, jail, and loss of boating privileges. Alcohol can impair a boater's judgment, balance, vision and reaction time. It can increase fatigue and susceptibility to the effects of cold-water immersion. Sun, wind, noise, vibration and motion intensify the side effects of alcohol, drugs and some medications. Alcohol use is dangerous for passengers, as well. Intoxicated passengers can more easily slip, fall overboard or suffer other accidents.

For more information about boating safety and marine recreation in New York State, visit www.nysparks.com or call 518-474-0445.