State and local law enforcement agencies are joining forces this summer to identify people boating under the influence.
The special patrols start Memorial Day weekend, which is May 26-29, and will wrap up Aug. 19.
The state Parks Boating Program and state Department of Fish and Wildlife police will join city and county marine patrol units to combat boating while intoxicated or impaired.
“For many Washingtonians, quality of life is connected to playing outside and spending time on our waterways,” said WDFW Deputy Chief Mike Cenci in a press release. “Why put great memories and people’s lives at risk by being impaired? Being a competent, vigilant and sober vessel operator is your responsibility, and it can make the difference between an incredible experience and a tragedy.”
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Emphasis patrols are scheduled for May 27-28 at Crescent Bar on the Columbia River, June 30-July 2 statewide, July 4 at Lake Tapps, July 28-29 on the Columbia River in Kennewick and Pasco, Aug. 3-6 on Lake Washington in Seattle for SeaFair, Aug. 4-5 at Lake Roosevelt on the Columbia River, and Aug. 18-19 on the Columbia River in Vancouver.
“It is never safe to operate a boat under the influence,” said Wade Alonzo, State Parks’ boating law administrator, in a press release. “We urge boaters to designate a sober skipper before heading out on the water.”
According to the Coast Guard’s 2015 Recreational Boating Statistics, boating under the influence is a leading cause of boating fatalities.
Alcohol and drugs were involved in about 30 percent of boating fatalities and 18 percent of boating injuries between 2005 and 2011.
The state saw a slight decline since strengthening the Boating Under the Influence law in 2013, according the State Parks, and state Fish and Wildlife departments.
State law allows law enforcement officers to require suspected intoxicated boaters to take a breath or blood test. Refusing to comply could lead to a civil penalty of $2,050.
Boating under the influence is a gross misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum fine of $5,000 and 364 days in jail. The law applies to all boats, including kayaks, canoes, rowboats and inflatable fishing rafts.