Boating Under the Influence Safety Guide
Recreational boating is generally a relaxing activity, and thus many individuals treat it differently than driving a car. Drunk boat driving might not seem as serious as drinking and driving a car, given the relative lack of traffic on the water, but the effects of even one drink can severely impair an operator’s ability to make good decisions. The combination of heat, glare and noise that an operator experiences while boating can exacerbate alcohol’s effects on the senses, equilibrium and judgment. Simply put, drunk boating is never safe behavior. Over half of all boating accidents involve alcohol or drugs, and alcohol is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents, according to the Insurance Information Institute. The U.S. Guard reports that BUI incidents increase boating fatalities by approximately 34 percent.
The rise in alcohol and drug-related boating injuries and fatalities is why every state has passed laws against boating under the influence (BUI). The most obvious way to avoid a BUI arrest is to not drink when boating. The accompanying BUI Guide illustrates just how dangerous drinking and boating can be and provides some helpful tips to avoid a BUI arrest. Next time you and your friends or family head out on the water, keep responsibilities in mind. Know the law and the risks, and you may save lives.
Whether you operate a fishing boat, sailboat, yacht, personal watercraft, or sailboard, you could be charged with BUI. Just like driving under the influence ('DUI'), legal penalties can range from civil fines and the forfeiture of your boating license, to prison time in criminal cases for causing a death while boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Since boating accidents and injuries rise dramatically when the weather is warmer, it is important to annually review boating safety requirements, and know how boating while intoxicated ('BWI') and BUI laws and regulations affect you.
Boating Safety Tips: To avoid being caught in a legal situation that could affect not only your own freedom and safety, but that of friends, family, and other boaters, remember the following:
- Be extra careful on major holiday weekends. The weekends of Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day are considered the deadliest weekends both on the water and on the road for accidents involving alcohol. Take extra care to use defensive boat operating skills during these weekends, and be aware that local law enforcement officials will step up their efforts to identify boaters who are under the influence.
- Know your local boating regulations. If you trailer your boat to another state, or to Canada, read and clearly understand what the local regulations say about open containers of alcohol in a boat and BUI laws.
- Make sure that you and all passengers on the boat wear life vests. Because alcohol, combined with the elements, can impair your balance, wearing a life vest is a good idea. Many boating deaths and accidents could be avoided each year if boat operators and their passengers would simply wear their life vests. Most states also have laws requiring children to wear life vests at all times while on a boat.
This BUI Guide is provided courtesy of The Olive Law Firm