Public Service Announcement: Boating Under the Influence

Published on May 30th, 2013

Boating and booze… is that redundant? Asking if a yacht club has a bar … is that even a question? Aren’t we now in ‘Beer Can’ racing season? Yes, it’s hard to escape the connection sailing has with spirits, so consider what follows to be a helpful reminder to be responsible…

* A boat operator is likely to become impaired more quickly than a driver, drink for drink?
* The penalties for Boating Under the Influence (BUI) can include large fines, revocation of operator privileges and serious jail terms?
* The use of alcohol is involved in about a third of all recreational boating fatalities?

While it is not illegal to drink alcohol while boating, it is illegal to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs in every state. The U.S. Coast Guard also enforces a federal law that prohibits BUI. This law pertains to ALL boats (from canoes and rowboats to the largest ships) – and includes foreign vessels that operate in U.S. waters, as well as U.S. vessels on the high seas.

The marine environment – motion, vibration, engine noise, sun, wind and spray – accelerates a drinker’s impairment. As a result of these factors, a boat operator with a blood alcohol concentration above .10 percent is estimated to be more than 10 times as likely to die in a boating accident than an operator with zero blood alcohol concentration. Passengers are also at greatly increased risk for injury and death – especially if they are also using alcohol.

The Coast Guard and every state have stringent penalties for violating BUI laws. Penalties can include large fines, suspension or revocation of boat operator privileges, and jail terms. The Coast Guard and the states cooperate fully in enforcement in order to remove impaired boat operators from the waters.

In waters that are overseen solely by the states, the states have the authority to enforce their own BUI statutes. These penalties can include the suspension or revocation of one’s vehicle driver’s license.

Spread the word on the dangers of BUI. Many recreational boaters forget that a boat is a vehicle – and that safe operation is a legal and personal responsibility.

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