The National Association of State Boating Law Administrators is holding Operation Dry Water this weekend as part of a nationwide push to end boating under the influence.
The association, a nationwide partnership of local boating officials, law enforcement and the Coast Guard, is asking boaters to pledge to stop boating while intoxicated. Recreational boating fatalities jumped last year to their highest levels since 1998.
The push comes as the Atlanta area is reeling over the death of 9-year-old Jake Prince Monday night after a hit-and-run accident involving the pontoon boat on which he was riding.
Paul J. Bennett, 44, the operator of a fishing boat involved in the crash that fled the scene, was charged with boating under the influence.
Prince’s 13-year-old brother, Griffin, is still missing. Jake Prince’s body was recovered immediately after the crash by his 15-year-old brother, Ryan, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Recovery efforts by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources for the teen are still under way, according to the agency. Five other passengers on the pontoon boat that was carrying 13 people were treated for non-life-threatening injuries.
Jake Prince was wearing his life jacket, Georgia DNR spokeswoman Melissa Cummings told Soundings Trade Only. Georgia law requires children 10 and younger to wear life preservers, Cummings said.
BUI continues to be a major problem, according to Operation Dry Water officials. A boat operator or even passengers who have a blood alcohol concentration above the legal limit run a significantly increased risk of being involved in a fatal boating accident, the group said in a statement.
Alcohol was the leading factor in those deaths, the association reported, contributing to 6 percent of boating accidents overall and 16 percent of boating fatalities. Fatality rates rose 14.8 percent last year.
The annual nationwide campaign focuses on enforcement of BUI laws and boater education about boating under the influence.
The yearly push is coordinated with the weekend leading up to July 4. It takes place June 22-24.