NEW YORK (WWTI) — For many, the Fourth of July will be spent on the water, though a boat party can pose many risks. With that in mind, thousands of law enforcement officers across the country are preparing for heightened patrols for the Fourth of July weekend.

Starting Friday, the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, the U.S. Coast Guard, the New York State Park Police, and the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC)—along with other state and local agencies—are participating in Operation Dry Water.

“With summer kicking off and the public eager to get back to normal from COVID-19 shutdowns, we expect there will be a lot of boating traffic on the waterways during the Holiday weekend. Boating While Intoxicated is dangerous and illegal and can lead to serious consequences including arrest,  serious injuries, and even death,” said Michael Pavelock, the Park Police Acting Assistant Director of Law Enforcement.

Over the holiday weekend, officers from these agencies will work to increase public awareness for both operators and passengers and confirmed they will be making arrests with a zero-tolerance approach. This heightened awareness and enforcement campaign focuses on prevention, specifically targeting those boating while intoxicated or impaired.

DEC Division of Law Enforcement Director Bernard Rivers added, “Much like any motor vehicle, boats can be deadly weapons in the wrong hands. It is absolutely critical that those heading out on New York waters this holiday weekend are not impaired by alcohol or drugs, as that can turn an enjoyable day into a tragic one in an instant.”

The Coast Guard out of Alexandria Bay says alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in recreational boater deaths. They have tips and warnings on boat safety at popular destinations like Lake George. Station Chief Peter Nelson listed the following tips for all boaters, of all experience-levels:

  • File a “float plan:” Detail your destination, estimated time of arrival, how many people are with you
  • Track the weather
  • Wear a life jacket
  • Bring proper equipment
  • Carry nautical charts or a GPS

In the far reaches of the North Country, a factor that continues to affect boaters is the restriction of nonessential travel between the U.S. and Canada. Nelson stated that this applies to boaters regardless of intentions to make landfall.

“Regardless of if you were intending to actually make landfall, you need to stay on the U.S. side,” stated Nelson. “It’s trickier on water because there’s no actual, land border, or line. So that’s where your chart plotter or a nautical chart will let you know.”

And this year as well, many are continuing to raise concerns over the low water levels. Nelson emphasized that they can also create dangerous situations on the water. “We tell all boaters not only to wear a life jacket, but also not to drink and boat. It can be a hazard, not only to themselves, but other people out on the water.”

Operation Dry Water first began in 2009 and is a year-round boating under the influence awareness enforcement campaign. In 2020, the effort involved over 7,600 officers across the country, resulting in about 105,000 vessel stops and more than 8,600 citations, including 625 for boating while intoxicated.