CHEYENNE - To keep boaters safe on the water for the Independence Day weekend, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department reminds adults that alcohol use is a leading contributing factor in recreational boater deaths and boating crashes.

As of July 1, the blood alcohol concentration limit of someone operating motorized boats is 0.08 percent, the same as operating a motor vehicle.

To encourage safety, Game and Fish is participating in the annual Operation Dry Water heightened awareness and enforcement weekend, July 5-7. This three-day weekend is a national weekend of increased enforcement of boating-under-the-influence laws and recreational boater outreach. In 2018, 574 local, state and federal agencies participated. Law enforcement officers contacted 201,888 boaters, made 494 BUI arrests and issued 26,565 citations and warnings for safety violations.

“Boating impaired can put everyone at risk. It is as deadly as driving under the influence,” said Aaron Kerr, Game and Fish law enforcement coordinator.

“At any given moment there are individuals in the water, on paddle boards or in other boats who trust boat operators to be alert and in control of their vessel. People’s lives depend on it.”

Game and Fish encourages boaters to avoid drinking alcohol while on the water or operating a boat after you have consumed alcohol. Use of both legal and illegal drugs also impairs judgment and reaction time and makes it dangerous to operate a boat.

“Sun, wind, noise, vibration, and motion are common stressors on the water and they can intensify the side effects of alcohol, drugs and some medications,” Kerr said. “Drinking a small amount can have greater impacts on judgment, balance, vision and reaction time.”

As part of Operation Dry Water, law enforcement will be on the water informing boaters about safe boating practices and removing impaired operators. Plan to bring the required safety equipment this upcoming holiday:

  • A life jacket for each individual on board. Life jackets must be properly-sized, U.S. Coast Guard approved and in good condition. They cannot be waterlogged, torn or have straps broken or missing. Life jackets also need to be readily accessible to the passengers on board. Children 12 years old and under are required to wear a life jacket while the boat is underway unless they are inside an enclosed cabin.
  • A minimum of one U.S. Coast Guard approved throwable flotation device, which includes ring buoys and float cushions, aboard boats 16 feet and longer.
  • A proper fire extinguisher on any boat with an inboard engine permanently installed fuel tank, closed living space, double bottoms that are not sealed to the hull or compartments that store fuel tanks or other combustible materials. Multiple extinguishers may be needed depending on the size of the boat.
  • Navigation lights are required when boating from sunset to sunrise. All motorized boats are required to display a red and a green light to represent the port (left) and starboard (right) sides, as well as a white light that is visible 360 degrees when underway. Again, the types of lights required differ based on the size of the boat.

To safely operate a motorized watercraft, all operators must be at least 16 years old, obey any buoys or markers in the water, and avoid reckless or careless operation.

Boaters can learn more about safe boating by visiting the Game and Fish website or operationdrywater.org.