Tickfaw River

A boater travels on the Tickfaw River in summer 2018. 

This weekend, sobriety checkpoints will be on both land and water.

Agents from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Law Enforcement Division (LDWF/LED) will take part in Operation Dry Water from July 3 to July 5.

During the Operation Dry Water weekend, LDWF agents will be on patrol “with heightened awareness for impaired boat operators on the state’s waterways,” said Major Rachel Zechenelly, the state’s boating law administrator, in a press release.

The extra measures are being made due to the Independence Day holiday. 

“We are always on the lookout for impaired boat operators, but this weekend it will be more of a focused effort,” Zechenelly said. “We know this will be a busy weekend and we want people to have fun on the waterways.

“However, we please ask everybody on the water to wear a personal flotation device and have a sober operator.”

Along with impairing a boater’s judgment, balance, vision and reaction time, Zechenelly said alcohol can increase fatigue and susceptibility to the effects of cold-water immersion. Sun, wind, noise, vibration and motion also intensify the side effects of alcohol, drugs, and some prescription medications.

Nationwide, alcohol is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents with alcohol playing a role in 23 percent of all deaths on the water. Louisiana had 20 boating fatalities in 2019, with alcohol playing a role in three fatalities.

Impaired boaters caught this weekend can expect penalties to be severe, Zechenelly said. In Louisiana, a DWI on the water carries the same penalties and fines as on the road and includes jail time, fines and loss of driving and boating operator privileges.

Anyone cited for a DWI on the water or on the road will lose his or her driver's license and boating privileges for the specified time ordered by the judge in the case. Also, each offense of operating a vehicle or vessel while intoxicated counts toward the total number of DWI crimes whether they happened on the water or road.

In Louisiana, a DWI can be issued to anyone operating a moving vessel or vehicle while impaired. First offense DWI carries a $300 to $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail.

Operation Dry Water was started in 2009 and is a joint program involving the LDWF/LED, the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) and the U.S. Coast Guard. More information is available at www.operationdrywater.org.

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