The Santa Barbara Harbor Patrol is increasing safety patrols, enforcement, and education for the Fourth of July holiday.
It’s all to support a national boating under the influence awareness, and enforcement campaign called Operation Dry Water.
“This is one of the busier boating holidays we have aside from Memorial Day and Labor Day,” said Harbor Patrol Officer Ryan Kelly.
Harbor Patrol will increase staffing and officers will be out on the water looking for drivers operating their boats while intoxicated.
“It’s exactly like a DUI, but it’s a BUI, boating under the influence,” Kelly said.
Boating under the influence is just as deadly as drinking and driving.
It’s legal to have open containers of alcohol on a boat, but it is illegal to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs in every state.
“It’s pretty simple. It’s just like driving a car; you designate a driver,” Kelly said.
On the Fourth of July, and in the days leading up to the holiday, Harbor Patrol officers will make contact with as many boats as possible, checking for the required safety equipment and the condition of the driver.
If the driver appears to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol, officers can make them dock their boat and do a field sobriety test.
Violators can be arrested, face large fines or have their boat operator privileges suspended or revoked.
Barry Stewart, a longtime boater, said the increased enforcement is a good idea.
“This time of year, the risks are highest. It’s when you have the most people celebrating and the most amateurs out there. You gotta watch out. It’s a good time to make sure everyone is safe,” Stewart said.
Signs warning the public about drinking and boating are posted at the launch ramp and marina gates at the harbor.
California has the third largest number of recreational boats in the country, the second highest number of boating-related accidents, and the third highest number of deaths according to the Coast Guard’s 2017 statistics.