Get involved with Operation Dry Water

I sign up for Google Alerts on boating topics in order to see what interesting things are occurring in the industry, but sadly my alerts often detail accidents and deaths involving boaters who were under the influence. Certainly anything in the least bit salacious is more “newsworthy” in this era than feel-good stories about boating, but it can feel a bit overwhelming to see all of the stories in my inbox every day.

That’s why I was so happy to read a story that popped up about the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission working with Operation Dry Water, a year-round boating under the influence awareness and enforcement campaign. Its mission is to reduce the number of alcohol-related accidents and fatalities through increasing awareness and fostering a stronger, more visible deterrent to alcohol use on the water.

Since its inception, boating fatalities with alcohol named as a contributing factor have declined from 19 to 16 percent, based on 2013 U.S. Coast Guard data. The campaign is preparing for their annual heightened awareness weekend on June 26 to 28, which will be supported by law enforcement.

As I read this story, I not only thought it was a wonderful effort on the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s part, but that our industry would ultimately benefit from taking some kind of action to participate in Operation Dry Water. The boating industry should always be committed to the safety of its consumers, not just when they are reading an owner’s manual, in the showroom or on the water during delivery.

Particularly with new boaters, it is our responsibility to set an example and to inform them of the dangers they are risking when boating under the influence – for themselves and for anyone else on the water. And when it comes to new boaters, one bad experience on the water can deter them from participating in boating altogether, even if another party who was acting with stupidity caused the danger.

I would encourage everyone to visit Operation Dry Water’s website, check out the Resources page and find a way they can help spread the word. One place to start would be sharing one of these PSA videos on your company’s Facebook page at the start of the awareness weekend.


  1. I serve on a boating industry committee dedicated to promoting safety and sharing safety information with both builders and accessory manufacturers. While the statistics undeniably support alcohol and other drugs as a major contributing factor in boating-related accidents, the scare tactics commonly used can be detrimental to the industry. We are working hard to promote the boating lifestyle as being fun and family oriented with an eye towards safety.

    For example, the video link in this article presents the consequences of BWI (being arrested) rather than a more subtle, positive approach such as the captain declining a beverage but encouraging passengers to have fun and enjoy themselves. Also, since drowning is by far the leading cause of deaths in boating, why aren't they wearing life jackets?

    • Brianna Liestman

      I think you absolutely make a good point, John, and I am glad to hear you are serving the industry through promoting safety and the benefits of the boating lifestyle. The very first thing boaters need to do to be safe is to wear a life jacket. And much like with operating an automobile, a group should designate one sober captain for a boat while the rest of the party enjoys themselves. It is true that drowning is the leading cause of deaths in boating. I can easily see how an impaired boater who doesn't wear a life jacket would become a victim of drowning, as that is an unsafe combination. An impaired passenger with a life jacket, to your point, is not as dangerous because they are taking the most necessary precaution for any boater.

      Ultimately, I think what we need to be sure we are making known to consumers is that life jacket or no, you should not be operating the boat if you are not sober, just as you shouldn't be operating any vehicle. If you are a passenger, feel free to have a great time, but be sure you are wearing a life jacket.

      • Brianna, I'm sorry if my point was confusing to you; I did not intend to imply that " An impaired passenger with a life jacket, to your point, is not as dangerous because they are taking the most necessary precaution for any boater. "

        Drinking aside, all passengers should be wearing life jackets at all times, in the boat or on the dock, in any boating industry communication to the public. Marketers, please withhold objections of showing life jacket use in brochure & web photos - when was the last time you saw a photo of a bicyclist without a helmet?

        Boat safely!

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