BWI Awareness And Enforcement Campaign Launches

Modified: June 23, 2017 10:39am


Sheriff Howard Announces Operation Dry Water Campaign


Buffalo, NY – Erie County Sheriff Timothy B. Howard announced today that the Erie County Sheriff’s Marine Unit would be participating in the national Operation Dry Water awareness and enforcement campaign.  Local, state and federal agencies will participate in this nationwide campaign to raise boater’s awareness to the dangers of operating a vessel while impaired by drugs and alcohol as well as enforcing New York State Boating While Intoxicated (BWI) laws.


BWI continues to be a major factor in accidents and deaths on our waterways; Deputies will again team up with local, state and federal agencies for Operation Dry Water. The Sheriff’s Marine Unit will begin to distribute pamphlets and posters to area marinas on Friday, June 23 ahead of the on-water campaign which starts June 30.  Then, starting next Friday, the Marine Unit will begin enhanced BWI patrols on Lake Erie, the Buffalo and Niagara rivers, and the Erie Barge Canal.


During last year’s 3-day enforcement period, the Sheriff’s Marine Unit interacted with sixty (60) vessels, made one (1) BWI arrest and issued fourteen (14) summonses for Navigation Law violations.  In the 2016 boating season, the Sheriff’s Marine Unit made ten (10) BWI arrests, one of its highest arrests totals in recent years.


Sheriff Timothy Howard explains, “My Deputies have two parts to their duty, education and enforcement.  They interact with boaters, kayakers, and other water vessel operators to educate them about safe operation and the laws.  However, my office has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to impaired operators.”

Boating under the influence applies to drugs, as well as alcohol.  Even some prescription medications can make operating a recreational vessel unsafe, and everyone is encouraged to check with their doctor to learn the effects of any medications they are taking.


Sun, wind, noise, vibration and motion, common to the boating environment, intensify the effects of alcohol, drugs and some medications.  Additionally, alcohol can impair a boater's judgment, balance, vision and reaction time and alcohol can increase fatigue and susceptibility to the effects of cold-water immersion; hypothermia can set in with 70-degree water temperatures too.


“Starting today, Marine Unit Deputies will visit local marinas to distribute information about the upcoming BWI enforcement campaign,” stated Sheriff Howard.  “And then on June 30, my office will have enhanced BWI patrols along the waterways surrounding Erie County.”


Effective November 1, 2016, New York State strengthened the penalties for BWI.  Now, a BWI offender is facing a 30-day sentence and will have all DWI and Driving While Ability Impaired convictions from the past five years taken into consideration during BWI sentencing.  Also, BWI penalties are now similar to DWI and DWI-Drugs.


The enforcement period for Operation Dry Water is June 30 – July 2, and a copy of the poster can be viewed here.