State wardens will increase boating patrols this Fourth of July weekend to prevent boating under the influence and curb a recent uptick in drownings, the state said in a statement.

The enforcement is part of the Operation Dry Water national campaign, which aims to bring awareness to the dangers of boating under the influence and, “reduce the number of alcohol and drug-related incidents and fatalities through increased awareness,” the release stated.

It is illegal to operate a boat with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher. In addition to preventing boating under the influence, the Maine Warden Service urged boat owners to register their vessel, always wear a life jacket and have the proper safety equipment, stay alert, operate at a safe and reasonable speed, and obey all boating laws.

Boaters should also tell someone where they are going and when they expect to be back, the service said.

Neal Wykes, left, and Sgt. Jason Luce of the Maine Warden Service boat across Brandy Pond while conducting safety inspection checks in 2020 in Naples. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Maine’s boating activity increases in July, especially during Fourth of July weekend, according to the department. Last year, boating activity increased throughout the state during the pandemic and nationally increased by approximately 25%.

A report from the United States Coast Guard found that where cause of death was known, 75% of fatal boating accident victims drowned, and of those drowning victims for which life jacket use was reported, 86% were not wearing a life jacket.

In addition, alcohol use was listed as the leading factor in 18% of deaths where the primary cause was known. Where instruction was known, 77% of deaths occurred on boats where the operator did not receive boating safety instruction.

“Maine Game Wardens will be patrolling lakes and ponds throughout the state to ensure that we all can safely enjoy Maine’s waters,” Maine Game Warden Lt. Jason Luce said in the statement.

The increase in patrolling comes amid a sharp increase in drownings last month. The water in Maine’s lakes, rivers and harbors is still cold despite the warm weather. Maine has recorded 11 drowning deaths statewide in all settings so far this year, according to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

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