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Boating is one of the summer’s most popular and fun activities when it comes to enjoying the water. Many boaters take the fun too far when they choose to drink, placing themselves and others at great risk for harm. While partying on the water may seem like an idea of a good time, it can actually turn deadly when the operator is boating under the influence (BUI) or boating while intoxicated (BWI). There are serious consequences for BUI, and learning more about why drinking and boating are so dangerous is important for staying safe this summer.

Why Drinking While Boating is Dangerous

Boaters commonly think they are safer drinking on a boat because they aren’t in a motor vehicle and on a highway. The very recreational nature of enjoying a boat may give operators and passengers a false sense of security when it comes to alcohol.

The same effects of poor judgment, impaired vision, and loss of balance from drinking exist, whether it is on a boat or in a car. According to data from the U.S. Coast Guard, more than half of deaths involving alcohol occurred when the victim fell overboard, or when a boat capsized.

The very factors that make boating an attractive activity—the sun and water—actually accelerate an operator’s impairment and can lead to a DUI on a boat. The engine noise, spray from the water, and the warm sun contributes to feelings of fatigue. Combined with alcohol, these factors result in delayed reaction time from the operator.

Recreational boaters may be less experienced and less confident on the water than in their personal vehicle. For most boaters, the opportunity to get on the water comes only during holidays, vacations, or during a weekend.

There are also other variables to consider, such as how deep the water is, submerged dangers like rocks or trees, and the size of the waves. There are also no lane markings or street lights as there is with driving a motor vehicle, requiring even more concentration when operating a boat.

A boat is a vehicle and not a toy. With boating being an occasional, and not an everyday activity, mixing the sport with alcohol makes it even more dangerous.

The Serious Consequences of Boating Under the Influence

According to boat-ed.com, drinking and boating are illegal in all 50 states. Whether you are paddling a canoe or operating a high-powered speed boat, you face severe consequences if charged with BUI, including some or all of the following:

  • Large fines
  • Possible jail time
  • Loss of or serious effect on your driving record and insurance
  • Boat impounded and possibly sold

Each state has its own penalties for BUI, but all follow the standard blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit for boating as for motor vehicles. In a majority of states, this limit is .08 percent. Underage drinkers face even more serious consequences when found BUI.

Police and sheriff’s deputies, along with fish and game wardens, and the U.S. Coast Guard all patrol the nation’s waterways to catch BUI offenders. These law enforcement agencies have the capabilities for testing BAC levels.

States like Florida have implied consent laws, meaning that by operating a boat on a state-owned body of water, you consent to BAC testing. Refusing to contest to testing in any circumstance, while boating or along a highway, often leads to additional penalties.

Boating under the influence, boating while intoxicated conviction on your record can affect your employment, resulting in missed time away from the job and possible termination. Court costs, fines, and possible jail time places a strain on your finances and your relationships. Just one afternoon of drinking and boating can lead to severe consequences that significantly affect your life.

About Draeger

At Dräger, we’re proud of our history as a world leader in medical and safety technology. For more than 60 years, we have protected, supported, and saved lives through our services and devices.

Enjoy the warm sunshine and water activities this summer safely by practicing responsible boating. Even if you don’t get caught drinking and boating, getting behind the wheel of your car to return home is just as serious.

As an industry leader in the field of ignition interlock devices, we want everyone to arrive safely to their destination. If a court order requires you to have an ignition interlock due to a DUI on a boat, contact us. The Draeger team provides excellent customer service and support, all designed to get you back on the road.

*Links to any third-party websites herein are provided for your reference and convenience only. Dräger did not create nor develop, and does not own, any such third-party websites. Dräger does not endorse nor support the content of, nor any opinions stated in, any such third-party website links. Dräger is not responsible for the content of any third-party website or its accuracy or reliability. Nothing contained in this article or in any such third-party website shall be considered legal advice or be deemed to constitute legal advice. For any legal advice concerning a DUI arrest, charge, conviction or consequences thereof, you should contact an attorney of your choice.