Reporter: Lauren Compton l Videographer: Ira Quillen
Bedford Co.,VA- There will be a lot of extra eyes watching the waterways this weekend for Operation Dry Water. It is part of an effort to crack down on boating under the influence.
U.S. Coast Guard officials say BUI's are the main reason boating fatalities are up this year. Across the country boating fatalities have jumped to their highest levels since 1998.
Department of Game and Inland Fisheries officials say they have not had a boating fatality at Smith Mountain Lake in two years. Everyone - from people renting the boats on the lake to the patrols on the water - is making sure it stays that way.
Coming out to the lake is a tradition for Tracey Cox and her family. But before they hit the water, they always make sure they have DBD a "designated boat driver."
"We'll that Coke in there... diet Coke. The driver is usually my husband. He's coming down later today. We always make sure we're safe in the water," said Cox.
That's exactly what these officers like to see. Over the weekend, the water will be saturated with officers.
"We will have safety checkpoints and other methods to deter those who think that they can slip by," said Karl Martin, district supervisor with the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.
It will be hard to slip by with 43 boating patrols and five safety check points planned for the operation. There are tough penalties for anyone who operates a water vessel under the influence like fines, loss of boating privileges or an arrest.
"We issue a lot of warnings for minor violations, but I can assure you that there won't be any warnings for people who are operating under the influence," said Martin.
Places like Bridgewater Marina also make sure their renters are well aware of the risks.
"You may only have one drink on land that affects you completely differently on the water. Alcohol and water really don't mix if you are operating a water craft, said Roy Enslow, owner of the Bridgewater Marina.
Last year, officers charged three people with Boating under the influence. Operation Dry Water wraps up Sunday.