Law enforcement increasing boat safety patrols at Lake Tahoe | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Law enforcement increasing boat safety patrols at Lake Tahoe

If you're boating on a body of water this weekend, be prepared to meet law enforcement.

Officers will be on high alert Friday through Sunday, June 29 to July 1, during Operation Dry Water, a nationally coordinated campaign focused on deterring boaters from boating under the influence. Officials hope the effort creates a stronger deterrent to use alcohol or drugs on the water.

"Alcohol use is a leading contributing factor in recreational boater deaths, and is one of the top reasons for recreational boating accidents in general," said Nevada Game Warden Captain David Pfiffner, Nevada's boating law administrator.

The Nevada Department of Wildlife, South Lake Tahoe Police Department, South Lake Tahoe Fire Rescue and other agencies have added extra officers and will be all over the North and South shores and every other major body of water across Nevada and California.

Agencies are focusing their efforts on detecting impaired boaters and educating the public about the dangers of boating under the influence.

Last year, alcohol played a role in 19 percent of boater deaths, the leading cause of fatalities.

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"Every boat operator makes a conscious choice when they decide to drink and operate a vessel," Pfiffner said. "Boating under the influence is a 100 percent preventable crime. The purpose of Operation Dry Water is to encourage boaters to stay sober while boating."

Since the inception of the Operation Dry Water campaign in 2009, law enforcement has removed 3,038 BUI operators from the nation's waterways and made contact with over 1.1 million boaters during the annual three-day weekend.

Just last year, officers contacted 243,853 boaters, made 518 BUI arrests and issued 33,243 citations and warnings for safety violations, according to a press release from the South Lake Tahoe Police Department.

Operation Dry Water is coordinated by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard along with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.

The Operation Dry Water weekend is held annually near the Fourth of July, a holiday known for increased boaters on the waters where alcohol use is prevalent, as are subsequent boating accidents and fatalities.

Agencies from all 56 U.S. states, trusts and territories are expected to participate.

For more information, visit http://www.operationdrywater.org.