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News Release, United States Coast Guard

PORTSMOUTH, Va. ?— The Coast Guard reminds mariners and beachgoers to exercise caution and practice safe boating during the Fourth of July holiday weekend, traditionally a time of increased boating traffic on waterways due to fireworks displays and celebration.

Mariners are reminded not to operate vessels under the influence. In addition to decreasing the operator’s ability to make sound judgments, the consumption of alcohol also negatively affects the ability of passengers to respond in the case of an emergency on the water. The Operation Dry Water heightened awareness and enforcement weekend will take place July 3rd through July 5th. Operation Dry Water is a national awareness and enforcement campaign focused on reducing the number of alcohol and drug-related accidents and fatalities and fostering a stronger, more visible deterrent to alcohol and drug use on the water.

The Coast Guard recommends the following safe practices:

*Never boat under the influence. Have a designated sober operator.
* It is against federal law to operate a vessel with .08% blood alcohol content or higher.
* Always wear a life jacket aboard a vessel.
* Make sure a friend or relative knows your float plan. A float plan states where you are going and when you will return.
* Maintain a reliable means of communication such as a VHF radio and a fully charged cell phone.
* Listen for safety zones, safety bulletins and emergency broadcasts via VHF-FM channel 16.
* Label your paddle craft, like kayaks and canoes – write your name and a contact number with indelible ink or a labeling sticker in the event it gets lost.
* Bring water, sunblock, and required medication when heading out on your boating venture.
* Do not impede navigable channels if watching fireworks from the water.
* Beachgoers are reminded to follow precautions regarding rip current dangers posted on beaches they visit, and not to swim on beaches after hours, or when a lifeguard isn’t present.
* Watch the weather. The National Weather Service broadcasts marine weather forecasts regularly by radio or by checking the NWS website at www.nws.noaa.gov.

Beachgoers can assist the Coast Guard in unnecessary searches by labeling any inflatable floats they bring to the beach with their name and phone number, and to ensure they maintain control of it. The Coast Guard initiates searches when pool floats are found, which can take resources away from people who are in distress.

“We want mariners and beachgoers to enjoy Fourth of July festivities but also stay safe,” said Rear Adm. Keith Smith, Coast Guard Fifth District Commander. “Help keep you and your loved ones safe by wearing a life jacket, filing a float plan, labeling your watercraft, and never operate any boat or other watercraft while under the influence.