Tennessee task force seeks crackdown on drunk boating accidents

On June 29, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency unrolled an intensive weekend initiative dubbed Operation Dry Water. The TWRA’s efforts just prior to the Fourth of July weekend mirrored a national effort to raise awareness regarding the dangers of Boating Under the Influence or BUI. Authorities hoped to take advantage of the peak boating season to give high visibility to their efforts at reducing impaired operation of watercraft.

Authorities implemented their plan by saturating reservoirs throughout the state known for high boat traffic. There, they held a sharp lookout for boaters operating an unsafe manner such as refusing to wear life jackets. Studies have shown that at least 20 percent of all boating accidents are caused by impairment from drugs or alcohol. It is believed that the environmental effects of sun, wind, vibration and noise can intensify those impairments.

This year represented the sixth year that the TWRA teamed up with the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators. Each year the group combines their efforts to reduce fatalities and injuries caused by people boating while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

In Tennessee, a person operating a watercraft with a blood-alcohol content in excess of .08% is considered legally impaired. That person could be subject to fines and jail. They might also run the risk of having their boat impounded and the loss of their privileges to operate the vessel.

One TWRA boating officer who participated in the task force says that the importance of removing impaired voters from the waterways could not be overstated. In his opinion, alcohol reduces the chance that an operator might successfully evade a boat accident by swerving to avoid hitting floating trees and other debris in their path.

The numbers seem to support the efforts of the task force. Despite a single water-related fatality in 2013, the operation checked 3400 vessels and issued 180 citations. 10 individuals were arrested for BUI during the 2013 sweep. Those numbers represented a drop of nine arrest from the previous year.

Victims injured as a result of a recreational vehicle accident might be entitled to recover compensation for their injuries. Individuals operating boats, jet skis or even RV and ATV vehicles while impaired from drugs or alcohol may be liable for the medical costs and lost wages of their victims. In most cases with those circumstances a plaintiff can file a claim against the defendant for monetary damages.

Source: Cleveland Daily Banner, “Operation Dry Water promotes water safety” Greg Kaylor, Jul. 13, 2014