Washington State Parks supports a nationally coordinated effort called Operation Dry Water. This large-scale effort works to reduce boating-under-the-influence (BUI) accidents and fatalities. As part of the campaign, emphasis patrols are conducted annually around the Fourth of July. Independence Day is known for increased boating activities, use of alcohol, and an increase in the number of boating accidents and fatalities. Operation Dry Water includes the Coast Guard and local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. There will be an increase in patrols on Puget Sound waters.
Similar to DUI, a BUI outlaws the use any substance that impairs a person’s ability to operate a vessel in the state. A “vessel” includes kayaks, canoes, paddleboards and other watercraft. It is also illegal to operate a vessel with a blood alcohol content level of 0.08 or higher, the same as a vehicle.
Below are some things for boaters to know:
- State law allows law enforcement officers to require boaters suspected of operating a boat while intoxicated to submit to a breath or blood test.
- Refusing to submit to a test is a civil infraction with a maximum fine of $2,050.
- The penalty for operating a boat under the influence is a gross misdemeanor punishable by a maximum fine of $5,000 and 364 days in jail.
- Additionally, a BUI is considered a prior offense if there are later convictions for driving under the influence (DUI).
In 2021, more than 570 local, state and federal agencies participated in Operation Dry Water, which resulted in nearly 640 BUI arrests and more than 42,440 citations and warnings for safety violations that were issued.