(CBS DETROIT) – Oakland County Sheriff’s marine deputies will be out in force on county lakes for the July 4 holiday weekend as part of Operation Dry Water, a national awareness and enforcement campaign to reduce alcohol and drug-related accidents and fatalities on the water.

Sheriff Michael Bouchard encouraged residents and visitors to enjoy the July 2-4 holiday with family and friends but to do it safely.

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“We know the Fourth of July holiday is the focal point of summer for many families,” Bouchard said. “We want everyone to enjoy the many things that make Oakland County such an attractive destination, but we want the holiday to be a safe one. No matter whether you’re behind the wheel of a car or operating a boat, don’t drink alcohol and drive. There is only a downside for taking this kind of risk. Protect yourself, your family and your friends.”

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The Sheriff’s Office Marine Unit – which is the largest in the state – has more than 45 part-time marine deputies who can quickly respond to emergencies on any of the lakes in the county. The unit includes a 13-member team comprised of full-time deputies who are highly trained in dive and emergency rescue. The department says they can dive in virtually any weather or water condition.

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The unit has 23 patrol boats, two rapid response jump boats, one hovercraft, six all-terrain vehicles and three specialty boats for search and rescue emergencies. The Sheriff’s Office also contracts with 12 communities to patrol 19 lakes: Cedar Island, Deer Lake, Lake Orion, Lower Straits Lake, Lake Sherwood, Lakeville Lake, Maceday Lake, North Commerce Lake, Orchard Lake, Pine Lake, Pontiac Lake, South Commerce Lake, Sylvan Lake, Upper Long Lake, Voorheis Lake, Walled Lake, Walnut Lake, White Lake and Williams Lake.

Operation Dry Water was launched in 2009 by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard and local, state and federal law enforcement.

In 2020, 620 local, state and federal agencies participated in Operation Dry Water. It is illegal in every state to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, which includes canoes and rowboats. Other boating safety facts include:

  • 86 percent of people who drown in a recreational boating accident were not wearing a life jacket.
  • Operating a boat with a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher is against federal and most state laws.
  • Sun, wind, noise, vibration and motion – stressors common to the boating environment – intensify the side effects of alcohol, drugs and some medications.
  • Impairment can be even more dangerous for boaters than drivers, since most boaters have less experience and confidence operating a boat than driving a car.
  • Alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents; where the primary cause was known, it was listed as the leading factor in 23 percent of deaths, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

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