Department of Natural Resources
June 25, 2020
Drunk driving – busted. Drunk boating – same thing. Whether you’re on the road or on the water, Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officers want you to know that operating under the influence means serious consequences.
Michigan DNR conservation officers are participating in Operation Dry Water, a national safe boating campaign that promotes sober boating. Conservation officers will have an increased presence on the water during peak boating hours now until after the July Fourth holiday weekend to ensure everyone is responsibly enjoying the water.
Last year, alcohol use was the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents; in incidents where the primary cause was known, it was listed as the leading factor in 23% of deaths, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.
“We want people to have a safe, fun holiday on the water and take sober boating seriously,” said Lt. Tom Wanless. “It’s just as easy to lose control of a vessel as it is a vehicle. Alcohol can affect you differently when spending time on the water and in the sun, increasing the likelihood of a boating accident or casualty. It might not even be a collision with another vessel – it could be a sharp, fast turn or hitting a wave that causes someone to fall off the vessel.”
In Michigan, a Boating Under the Influence (BUI) charge is a misdemeanor offense. A person is operating illegally when their blood alcohol content is .08% or above.
“The safest and most responsible way to boat is with a sober operator who has completed an approved boater safety education course,” Wanless said.
U.S. Coast Guard 2019 data says that 70% of boating deaths occurred on boats where the operator did not receive boating safety instruction. Anyone born on or after July 1, 1996, must have a valid boater safety certificate to operate a motorized vessel in Michigan. People born on or after Dec. 31, 1978, must have a boater safety certificate to operate a personal watercraft (such as a SeaDoo or JetSki). The Michigan DNR offers boater safety education as an online course. Go to Michigan.gov/RecreationalSafety for more information.
Michigan conservation officers are fully commissioned state peace officers who provide natural resources protection, ensure recreational safety and protect residents by providing general law enforcement duties and lifesaving operations in the communities they serve.