The Maine Marine Patrol will be on heightened alert for those violating Maine’s boating under the influence laws during the national Operation Dry Water weekend, June 24 to 26.

Operation Dry Water is a national awareness and enforcement campaign coordinated by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators that focuses on deterring boaters from boating under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

“Marine Patrol Officers will be conducting patrols on Maine's coastal waters from Kittery to the Canadian border focused on boaters who may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs,” said Maine Marine Patrol Maj. Rene Cloutier. “They will also be taking every opportunity possible to provide information on safe boating practices and the importance of wearing life jackets.” According to US Coast Guard statistics, 85 percent of drowning victims in 2015 were not wearing a life jacket.

Nationally, alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents. According to the US Coast Guard, in 2015 alcohol use was the primary factor in nearly one-fifth of boater deaths.

Law enforcement agencies from every U.S. state and territory are expected to participate in Operation Dry Water weekend, focusing their efforts on detecting impaired boaters and educating the public about the dangers of boating under the influence.

“The decision about whether to boat under the influence is a choice,” Cloutier said. “Boating under the influence is a 100-percent preventable crime. The Maine Marine Patrol strongly encourages boaters to stay safe by staying sober while boating.

“Environmental stressors such as wind, noise, and the movement of the boat while on the water intensify the effects of alcohol or drug use on an individual while boating. Boaters can become impaired more quickly on the water than on land.”

In 2015, law enforcement officers from 582 local, state and federal agencies across the U.S. made 278 BUI arrests for both drugs and alcohol, issued 17,942 citations and made contact with over 125,087 boaters during the annual three-day weekend.

The Maine Marine Patrol participated in 11 Operation Dry Water details in 2015. The operation involved 21 Officers. Patrols took place in Penobscot River, Kennebec River, Boothbay Harbor, Southport Island, Portland, Harpswell, Bar Harbor, Rockland, Matinicus Island and Castine.  A total of 107 boats were checked with 329 persons on board. A total of 30 warnings were issued for various safety equipment deficiencies.

Operation Dry Water is a boating under the influence awareness and enforcement campaign with the mission of reducing the number of alcohol and drug-related accidents and fatalities through increased recreational boater awareness and by fostering a stronger and more visible deterrent to alcohol and drug use on the water.

For more information on Operation Dry Water, visit operationdrywater.org.