Boating and alcohol can be an even more dangerous combination than drinking and driving. Boating under the influence (BUI) related accidents are the leading cause of boating deaths and have increased over 20% in the past 5 years (2002-2007).
Boating while intoxicated can be deadly and it’s just as illegal as DUI. According to the US Coast Guard, a boat operator with a blood alcohol concentration above .08 - the legal threshold in many states - is 10 times more likely to be killed in a boating accident than a boater with zero BAC.
Mixing drinking with boating or swimming can be fatal. 2 out of every five teens who drown have been drinking.
While you might expect collisions to be the leading cause of alcohol related boating fatalities, it isn’t so. Falling overboard, capsized boats, missteps at dockside, and entering or exiting vessels are a much greater threat.
The effects of alcohol are frequently compounded on the water. Bright sun, wind, adverse weather, noise, spray and the constant motion of the waves add to the expected effects of alcohol on balance, vision, coordination and judgment. Making matters even more dangerous is a lack of brakes, speed limits, traffic control points and good nighttime illumination.
Situations calling for decisive action such as a person overboard, water obstacles or oncoming vessels can quickly become deadly, especially at night. Passengers can easily fall overboard. An intoxicated person, even an excellent swimmer might swim downward and be unable to find the surface.
Did you know that once a person puts on a pair of water skis, they are subject to the same penalties as the boat captain for boating while intoxicated if caught skiing under the influence.
Unlike on the road, open alcohol containers are commonly permitted on-board resulting in more drinking and a false sense of security. In most states, the legal consequences of BUI are the same as driving under the influence and the penalties are equally severe. Authorities may conduct Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs), and/or obtain breathalyzer readings to determine whether the mariner is under the influence.