(WFRV) – With the Fourth of July weekend lending itself as one of the busiest times of year for Wisconsin waterways, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is reminding boaters to keep safety top of mind as they cast off.

According to the DNR, Wisconsinites enjoying Wisconsin’s waters from July 2 through July 4 will see more DNR conservation wardens and local law enforcement on high alert for anyone under the influence as part of the annual national Operation Dry Water.

DNR’s increase in vigilance during the holiday weekend is attributed to the climbing boating fatalities related to alcohol use. According to the DNR, in 2021, 13 people have died in boating-related accidents. Of those accidents, the majority occurred in Northeastern Wisconsin counties including Fond du Lac, Manitowoc, Oneida, Oconto, Waushara, and Brown counties.

DNR says that most of these incidents involved victims who were not wearing life jackets. Officials say that nearly 80 percent of all fatalities are due to drowning. For this reason, several local and national law enforcement agencies are taking part in the Operation Dry Water campaign, focusing on spotting impaired boaters and educating the public about the dangers of boating under the influence.

“We want to make sure that everyone on the water has a safe and enjoyable holiday weekend,” said Lt. Darren Kuhn, DNR Boating Law Administrator. “This means that all operators and passengers should boat sober all season long. Boating under the influence is a 100% preventable crime. Whether you’re driving the boat or enjoying it as a passenger, being under the influence can cause slips, falls overboard and other dangerous incidents. Stay safe by boating sober and always wearing a life jacket.”