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Is Wisconsin doing enough to keep impaired boat operators off the water?

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“Stay Sober or Get Arrested” – Doing enough to protect ?

The Question: “Is Wisconsin doing enough to keep impaired boat operators off the water?”

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photo c. WDNR ©2014

DNR wardens, local patrols target impaired boat drivers for Operation Dry Water, June 27-29

Get smart, be skilled and stay sober enjoying Wisconsin’s waters.

That’s the state theme for June 27 – 29 when Department of Natural Resources conservation wardens will join local boat patrols for Operation Dry Water, the annual national boating safety campaign dedicated to increasing public awareness about sober boat operation by removing impaired drivers.

Roy Zellmer, DNR boating safety administrator and conservation warden, says wardens and local boat patrols will be out in force that weekend talking about on-water safety as well as watching for operators whose actions are impaired by alcohol and other drugs, and those whose blood alcohol level is higher than the state limit of 0.08 percent as part of the annual June national safety campaign.

“There are 84,000 river miles and 15,000 lakes Wisconsin for all to enjoy,” Zellmer said. “The wardens and the local boat patrols are working as a team to help all have fun, without having to worry about the careless and selfish actions of a very few.”

Operation Dry Water, a multi-agency, education and enforcement initiative launched by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators in 2009 in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard, puts thousands of local, state and federal marine law enforcement officers on the water nationwide the last weekend in June to give operating while intoxicated enforcement high visibility during the peak boating season.

Operation Dry Water focuses on spreading awareness of the danger of boating under the influence.

Wisconsin closed 2013 with 614,399 registered boats. DNR records show there were 87 boating accidents in 2013 that caused 66 injuries and 13 fatalities. Of those who died, nearly all drowned and were not wearing personal flotation devices.

“Operator inexperience and lack of boating safety education also continue to be factors in boating accidents,” Zellmer said.

In Wisconsin boaters whose blood alcohol content (BAC) level exceeds the state limit of .08 can expect to be arrested for boating under the influence (BUI). Penalties for BUI include fines, jail, alcohol/drug assessment and completion of a boating safety course. Operation Dry Water patrols will include increased patrols as well as boater education and outreach.

For more information visit the Operation Dry Water web site.

For more information contact:

  • Roy Zellmer – (608) 212-5385
  • Joanne Haas – (608) 209-8147


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Should wearing a personal floatation device be mandatory for boaters on Wisconsin’s waters?

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Mandatory PFD use in Wisconsin… ???
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Safe Boating Week: Make it a habit — wear a life jacket every trip

MADISON – It’s the preventable death that will haunt the survivors. That’s what National Safe Boating Week is about – saving lives with the simple maneuver of donning a life jacket.

“Safe boating means making it a habit to put on your life jacket – and making sure everyone in your boat has one on, too – before you turn the key and pull your boat from the dock,” says Roy Zellmer, boating law administrator for the Department of Natural Resources. “The belief you will be able to get the jacket on as you fall over the boat’s side for whatever reason is unrealistic.”

National Safe Boating Week is the last full week before the much celebrated Memorial Day weekend, which typically kicks off the summer recreational and boating. And Wisconsin is well known to the boating community.

The Badger State is home to 15,000 lakes and 84,000 miles of rivers enjoyed by nearly one million resident boaters and thousands of out-of-state boaters. National Safe Boating Week is intended to to help all boating enthusiasts continue to enjoy this recreational opportunity in the safest way possible. And that means wearing a life jacket.

Of the 23 boating fatalities in Wisconsin last year, 13 were drowning and none of the victims was properly wearing a life jacket. From 2007-2011 there were 67 people who drowned in boating incidents in Wisconsin and 91 percent of them were not wearing lifejackets.

“This mirrors the national statistics from the U.S. Coast Guard, which show over the past few years that 90 percent of all boaters who drown were not wearing a life jacket,” Zellmer said. “Wearing a life jacket is one of the simplest ways to save lives while boating. Having a life jacket with you, but not wearing it is like not wearing your seatbelt in a car – by the time you realize you need it, it’s too late to put it on.”

The U.S. Coast Guard and Wisconsin law require vessels under 16 feet in length to be equipped with one Type I, Type II, Type III or Type V personal flotation device, commonly called a life jacket, for each person on board. This means that even canoes and kayaks must carry a wearable life jacket or personal flotation device (PFD) for each person on board. Vessels 16 foot or more in length must be similarly equipped and there also must also be at least one Type IV throwable PFD for the boat.


For more information contact

  • Joanne M. Haas, DNR Public Affairs Manager – Division of Enforcement and Science, 608-267-0798

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