July 4 and always, DNR stresses safe boating with Operation Dry Water

Michigan Department of Natural Resources


As the July Fourth holiday approaches, Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officers will focus on keeping boaters safe through heightened awareness and enforcement of boating under the influence laws.


The initiative is part of the national Operation Dry Water campaign, which runs June 30 to July 2.


The annual campaign is launched just prior to the July Fourth weekend, when more boaters take to the water and alcohol use increases. It is in coordination with the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, the U.S. Coast Guard and other partners. Through this stepped-up enforcement, the DNR is raising awareness of the hazards associated with boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and is working to decrease the number of accidents attributed to impaired boating and other unsafe boating practices.


“Alcohol and boating don’t mix,” said the DNR’s Lt. Tom Wanless, Michigan’s boating law administrator. “Using alcohol impairs reaction time and judgment, just as if you were driving a car. In fact, the effects of alcohol and certain medications are increased on the water due to added stress factors such as the sun, heat, wind, wave motion and engine noise. So be smart and stay sober when boating, and don’t put yourself and others at risk.”


In Michigan, operating a motorboat while under the influence of alcohol — which means the person has a blood alcohol content of 0.08 grams or more – or under the influence of a controlled substance is a misdemeanor punishable by fines up to $500, community service and up to 93 days in jail. It also can result in the loss of boating privileges for at least one year.


If a person is killed or injured due to a driver operating a boat while under the influence, the driver could be charged with a felony, punishable by fines up to $10,000 and up to 15 years in prison.


Boaters can do their part to stay safe on the water by: Boating sober — alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in recreational boater deaths. Wearing a life jacket — 85 percent of drowning victims in the U.S. were not wearing life jackets. Taking a boating safety course — the DNR recommends a safety course for anyone who plans to use a boat or personal watercraft.


For more information about boating regulations and safety courses in Michigan at www.michigan.gov/boating.