SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - US Coast Guard officers will be out in full force over the holiday weekend. They've launched Operation Dry Water to help cut down on the number of arrests for people boating under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
"We want everybody to have a great time and do it in a safe manner," says Lt. Commander Ellen Motoi, the Chief of Enforcement for the San Diego Sector of the Coast Guard.
"We're going to have a lot more boats out there from the local side, as well as Harbor Police. They'll be promoting safety and looking for boaters under the influence," says Motoi.
Alcohol is the leading cause of boating accidents, according to the Coast Guard. They look for erratic speed, dangerous course headings and boats coming too close to other vessels as warning signs that someone may be drunk while operating a boat.
Operation Dry Water is a nationwide program. In 2018, they made 494 BUI arrests and issued 7,305 other citations.
Like driving, the legal limit for alcohol while operating a boat is .08. Anyone arrested for BUI could face jail time, a loss of their license/credentials and a hefty fine.
Aside from BUI, Motoi says the emphasis of Operation Dry Water focuses on safety.
"It's not worth it," says Motoi. "We encourage everyone to think twice before you get on a boat."
Motoi says the most common mistake people make is not to wear a life jacket. The Coast Guard says 80% of all drownings happen because people aren't wearing one.
The Coast Guard also wants boaters to know they shouldn't shoot off flares or fireworks from their boats. Those are considered distress signals and the Coast Guard will respond accordingly.
For more information about Operation Dry Water, click here.