Operation Dry Water is Hitting Our Rivers This Weekend
Every year almost half a million people gear up for the Three Rivers Regatta Festival here in Pittsburgh. Beginning June 30, professional power boaters will race, water ski teams will perform for the crowds, and local residents will compete in the annual Anything That Floats race. This year, the celebration coincides with the Kenny Chesney-Tim McGraw concert, and it's estimated that around 1,000 local boaters will be drawn to the North Shore for the festivities.
In preparation for the increase in boating traffic, the Coast Guard and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission will participate in Operation Dry Water from today until Sunday. This nationwide enforcement campaign uses checkpoints on the rivers to target people who are boating under the influence. Boaters in violation of the law will have their boat impounded and can face fines, arrest, and loss of boating privileges. The legal blood alcohol limit for boaters is 0.08 – the same as for drivers.
Last year alone there were nearly 90 boating accidents in Pennsylvania. Just last weekend one individual died after going over the Dashfields Dam on the Ohio River and another two were sent to the hospital after their personal watercraft collided with a boat on the Monongahela River. Every weekend it seems like there are more boats and jet skis out on the rivers, so it's important that everyone keep safety in mind.
The following are the top five contributing factors in boating accidents, and all boaters should be aware of them:
- Operator inattention. Boat operators need to pay close attention to their surroundings at all times so they can respond quickly to any obstacles arise.
- Excessive speed. Use common sense and operate your boat at a safe speed. Many waters have special regulations such as horsepower limitations and regulated boating areas like slow-no-wake zones and ski areas.
- Alcohol use. Operating a watercraft under the influence of alcohol or drugs is strictly prohibited. If the operator of a boat has a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 or more, they can be convicted of drunk boating and face fines up to $7,500, two years in prison, and the loss of their boating privileges for one year.
- Improper lookout. The operator of a boat should designate someone to keep a lookout for any debris or water barriers, like dams, that could set the boat off its track. Boaters should also be conscious of changing weather conditions, like darkening clouds, rough winds, or sudden drops in temperature as these can be signs of an impending storm.
- Operator inexperience. Boaters should be familiar with their state's boating safety rules and license or certification requirements. Boaters also need to know how to respond to any unforeseen circumstances that may arise on the water.
Additionally, make sure there is a life jacket for every passenger aboard your boat and that any children under 12 have a life jacket on at all times. Boating is a great way to enjoy the city's rivers, but it can take a turn for the worse if boaters don't take the proper steps to ensure safe boating. Be safe out there!