BOATING UNDER THE INFLUENCE

Boating under the influence of alcohol or drugs can be as deadly as driving a car while under the influence!

Did you know:

A boat operator is likely to become impaired more quickly than a vehicle driver, drink for drink?

The penalties for BUI can include large fines, revocation of operator privileges and serious jail time?

The use of alcohol is involved in about one-third of all recreational boating fatalities?

It is illegal to operate a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs in every state. The Coast Guard also enforces a federal law that prohibits BUI. 

Alcohol affects judgment, vision, balance and coordination. These impairments increase the likelihood of accidents afloat for both boat operators and passengers. U.S. Coast Guard data shows that in boating deaths involving alcohol use, over half the victims capsized their boats and/or fell overboard. 

Alcohol is even more hazardous on the water than on land. The marine environment of motion, vibration, engine noise, sun, wind and spray accelerate a drinker’s impairment. These stressors cause fatigue that makes a boat operator’s coordination, judgment and reaction time decline even faster when using alcohol.

As a result of alcohol’s effects, a boat operator with a blood alcohol concentration of approximately  .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 or 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 time. 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. In state waters that are also subject to U.S. jurisdiction, there is concurrent jurisdiction. That means if a boater is apprehended under Federal law in these waters, the Coast Guard will (unless precluded by state law) request that state law enforcement officers take the intoxicated boater into custody. Depending on the circumstances, the operator may be arrested. Penalties vary, but in many jurisdictions operators found guilty of BUI can expect a civil penalty of at least $1,000 or criminal penalty of $5,000, one year of imprisonment or both. Civil lawsuits in cases of property damage or injury/death to others can result in significantly more serious penalties. 

Intoxication from drugs, including legal prescription drugs, is an equally serious matter and is dealt with as seriously as alcohol.

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