WIRTZ, Va. – Conservation police will flood the waterways across the Commonwealth to urge boaters to stay sober and safe this holiday weekend for Operation Dry Water.
Red, white and blue pride should not be the only thing on boaters’ minds this holiday weekend.
Last year, there were 19 boat fatalities in Virginia, according to the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources. Of those fatalities, three involved alcohol.
The rocky waters combined with the heat and an alcoholic beverage is the worst cocktail that can lead to hefty fines.
“It can run anywhere from $2,500 in fines, up to a year in jail,” Sgt. James Slaughter with Virginia Conservation Police said.
Last year, conservation police issued 120 citations across the Commonwealth during Operation Dry Water.
With an expected uptick in boat traffic, Slaughter said put the phone down and stay alert.
“You have to keep your head on a swivel out here,” he said. “There are so many different factors because there are no lines out here on the water like there are on the roadway.”
In 84% of the boating fatalities, now life jacket was worn.
Tightening the straps is crucial and Slaughter urges captains to slow down.
“You’re not going to get out of the water any faster than the next person when you get back to the boat ramp,” he said. “So take your time.”
Before you hit the water, make sure to also check equipment ahead of time and turn on boat lights when it’s dark.
If you are new to boating or need a refresher, the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources offers boat safety courses.