Boating Under the Influence

Boating under the influence of drugs or alcohol, just like driving under the influence, is a dangerous and illegal activity. As with drunk driving, all 50 states consider a boater legally intoxicated when his or her blood alcohol content level reaches 0.08%.

Roughly half of all boating accidents are alcohol or drug-related. The United States Coast Guard estimates that 60,000 or more nonfatal boating accidents take place annually, with a cost of $240 million.

Records on boating accidents have been filed since 1961. From that year through 1992, 800 lives were lost due to boating accidents. This number is higher than the amount of records regarding airplane or train fatalities.

Bodies of water are the second most common scene for accidental deaths in the United States, the first being highways. Both the Coast Guard and the United States Congress recognize drugs and alcohol as a serious problem on the water.

Alcohol use can be even more dangerous in a marine environment than on land. The motion, vibration, engine noise, sun, wind, and spray all accelerate and increase a drinker’s impairment. A boater becomes fatigued more quickly than a driver, which leads to a decline in the boater’s coordination, judgment, and reaction time, especially when under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Boaters’ abilities behind the wheel are also more likely to be influenced by alcohol because boaters generally spend a limited amount of time boating and are less experienced and lack confidence on the water in comparison to dry land.

Alcohol is a depressant that affects the body’s central nervous system. A person’s judgment, vision, balance, and coordination, among other factors, are all affected. Impairment of these abilities increases the probability that a boater will cause an accident. The most common types of boating accidents involving alcohol include boat capsizing and people falling overboard. The Coast Guard reports that passengers commonly fall into the water because they are under the influence of alcohol.

Boat operators that have a blood alcohol concentration level of 0.10% or above are estimated to be over ten times more likely to die in a boating accident than a boater who has not consumed any alcohol.

It is every boater’s responsibility to be aware of the risks involved in BUI and the laws and penalties associated with such reckless activity. In every state, it is illegal to operate a boat under the influence of drugs or alcohol, regardless of the type of boat. The Coast Guard enforces a federal law prohibiting BUI. This legislation includes all watercraft, from canoes and rowboats to large ships and foreign vessels, which enter American waters as well as American ships in the high seas.