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Authorities target alcohol abuse while boating

HAHNVILLE — Alcohol is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents.

That sobering statistic — in combination with the fact so many River Region residents take to the water to cool off from sweltering temperatures — is why the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office has teamed up with Operation Dry Water for the 2015 weekend of heightened boating under the influence awareness and enforcement.

Operation Dry Water is a year-round awareness and enforcement campaign with a mission to reduce the number of alcohol-related wrecks and fatalities through increased recreational boater awareness and by fostering a stronger and more visible deterrent to alcohol use on the water.

Each year Operation Dry Water hosts a heightened awareness and enforcement three-day weekend prior to the Independence Day holiday, a time known for deadly boating wrecks, officials said.

The 2015 Operation Dry Water heightened awareness and enforcement weekend
will take place nationally June 26-28, which authorities say facilitates an intensified effort by the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office to remove impaired operators from the waterways and to inform and educate boaters about the dangers and implications of boating under the influence.

Officials said alcohol use can impair a boater’s judgment, balance, vision and reaction time, adding alcohol is dangerous for passengers as well because intoxication can cause slips, falls over board and other dangerous accidents.

Sun, wind, noise, vibration and motion —“stressors” common to the boating environment — intensify the effects of alcohol and drugs, officials said, adding alcohol use can also increase fatigue and susceptibility to the effects of cold-water immersion.

Operation Dry Water was launched in 2009 by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators in partnership with the United States Coast Guard.

For more information on boating safety, visit operationdrywater.org.