NASHVILLE, Tenn. (July 1, 2022) – The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency held a press day at J. Percy Priest Lake in Nashville, Tennessee to spread the word about Operation Dry Water, before the upcoming 4th of July weekend. ODW, a national awareness and enforcement campaign focused on reducing the number of alcohol and drug-related incidents and fatalities on the water, will take place from July 2 to July 4. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District hosted the event at Priest Lake.
“Our state suffers boating incidents and tragedies each year that could have been avoided if it weren’t for the presence of drugs or alcohol,” said Cpt. Matt Majors, TWRA Boating Investigator.
“Our goal is to protect those in the communities we serve and to ensure that recreational boaters, paddlers, fishermen, and others who visit our waters are able to enjoy their time with family and friends safely. Our Agency is joining all states and U.S. territories to do our part in helping keep boaters safe and preventing incidents caused by boating under the influence,” said Majors.
TWRA, with the help of U.S. Coast Guard and the NASBLA, is increasing the number of patrol boats on Tennessee waterways this holiday weekend and will be on heightened alert for BUI infractions for both drivers and passengers of recreational boats.
“We’re going to have several rangers out on the water this weekend at our various Nashville District lakes,” said J. Percy Priest Lake Resource Manager Greg Thomas, “they’re going to be looking for safety violations and if they see anyone acting negligently, we’re going to take the necessary steps to handle those situations.”
Participants at the event included TWRA, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District, and the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators.
National President of Mothers Against Drunk Driving Alex Otte shared her personal experience in a drunk boater accident which nearly took her life at the age of thirteen. She uses every opportunity to tell her story, so others won’t have to suffer through the same experience she did as a child.
“We always encourage people to plan ahead. If you’re the driver, you shouldn’t consume alcohol out on the water and you shouldn't be boating while under the influence because boating under the influence is still driving under the influence,” said Otte.
Otte continued, “we encourage people to be safe and make a plan. Wear a life jacket, wear your kill switch and have fun. Just remember that even if you make a bad choice, you have to be responsible enough to have someone unimpaired drive your boat and car, so you make it home safely at the end of the holiday weekend.”
According to TWRA, there have been 15 deaths during recreational boating incidents this year in Tennessee. Boating Under the Influence contributes to one-third of all recreational boating fatalities on Tennessee waterways. The best way to avoid getting a BUI is to designate a sober boater to operate your vessel.
TWRA Wildlife Technician II Elizabeth Medlocke said many of the accidents that happen on the lake can be easily avoided by being aware of your surroundings and resisting the use of alcohol.
Medlocke said, “whenever you drink, your awareness and reaction time are greatly impaired. It puts those around you, and yourself, at risk. Especially when you’re driving or boating. Your judgment is impaired, and it can put you at risk of crashing or hitting innocent bystanders recreating on the water.”
During last year’s ODW event, there were six serious boating-related injury incidents and 21 BUI arrests made across Tennessee waterways. Operating a boat with a Blood Alcohol Content of .08 percent or higher is illegal in Tennessee, the same as operating a motor vehicle.
Those charged with BUI’s can face penalties which include fines, jail time, boat impoundment and the loss of boat driving privileges.
“We want everyone to enjoy their holiday weekend, and for that to happen we need everyone to act responsibly. If you see someone drinking, don’t let them drive. Make sure you’re wearing your life vest and remind those who are with you to do the same. We want everyone to make it home,” said Thomas.
Operation Dry Water was started by the NASBLA in 2009. It has been a highly successful campaign drawing public attention to the dangers of boating under the influence.
For more information on boating in Tennessee visit https://www.tn.gov/twra/boating.html.
(The public can obtain news, updates and information from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District on the district’s website at www.lrn.usace.army.mil, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/nashvillecorps and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/nashvillecorps.)